In today’s politically correct world, it’s not hard to accidentally “offend” someone by saying the wrong thing. But up until now, you could be pretty sure it was okay to do things like refer to someone as “he” if they’re, you know, a man. Well, looks like that’s not allowed anymore, either. There’s a story going round the internet that “misgendering” someone – calling them by the gender they were born, instead of the one they “identify as – is enough to get you kicked off leading social media platform Twitter. What’s the story here?
• Twitter updated their terms of service in October. This event was kept low-profile, and passed off as just a few minor tweaks to the rules that weren’t worth making a fuss about. They certainly didn’t say they’d sneaked in new reasons to kick people off the platform.
• But they have. The updated Twitter rules now say “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
• “Misgendering” means calling someone by the gender they actually are, not the gender they prefer to be. If the fact that someone has a penis and a Y chromosome matters to you, and for the sake of factual accuracy you call them “he”, Twitter has a problem with that. So Bruce Jenner is biologically male? That doesn’t matter; you need to call him “her”.
• “Deadnaming” is a PC word for calling someone by the name their parents gave them. Oh, did we mention Bruce Jenner in the last paragraph? Sorry; we meant Caitlin. Even though his name’s Bruce.
• The reasons Twitter give for the changes are way over the top. If someone really has gender dysphoria, doesn’t feel comfortable in the gender they were born with and prefers to be the other one, calling them by the “wrong” pronouns is probably a bit rude. But does it really “dehumanize” them like Twitter says it does? Last time we checked, men and women were both human.
• Twitter is pretty vague about what it takes to get banned. Their terms of service say “repeated slurs”, but repeated how often? Will they nuke your account if you say “Bruce Jenner” a hundred times – or if you say it twice?