I admit (and embrace) the fact that I am an oddball sort of man: I wear make up, I love glitter, I wear pink — and yet, I am quite straight and proudly self-identify as male. It turns out that this (non) dichotomy is relevant to the kinds of gender-specific pronouns I choose to use in my writing.
Gender pronouns (he, she, him, her, etc.) have been an issue for decades now. When should you use the male or female gender pronouns in your writing? Should you avoid them altogether? It simply won’t do to have to write the combined “his or hers” at every turn; this produces writing that is hard to read for the reader, and hard to write for the writer.
It also won’t do to pretend as though English doesn’t have gender-specific pronouns! To substitute “it” for “she” is truly degrading. And I have no interest in that movement to introduce into English a new invented neutral pronoun. Natural languages are rarely able to change via anything but natural processes. I prefer my writing to be understandable — even at the expense of it being politically incorrect.
Your fear of the political correctness police is not a defensible motivation for anything. I always assume there is something disingenuous about a man (who identifies himself as a male) who aggressively uses female pronouns in his writing when referencing the generic case. I can’t help but suspect that he does this more out of fear than out of a genuine identification with women.
I’d rather be honest than fit into a cultural norm.
My solution is this: a writer should use the gender pronoun that corresponds to the gender they self-identify as. Not only do I think this is fair, but it allows a writer to express a more personal point of view — your gender is a part of who you are; if you don’t think so, ask someone who has chosen to CHANGE their gender. Honest and personal writing is generally better writing.
Therefore, if you were born a male, but you self-identify as a female, then it makes perfect sense for you to use the female pronoun when discussing a generic human. But if you are a male who self-identifies as male, then you should not feel afraid to primarily use the male pronouns. Similarly, a female who identifies as a female should use the female pronouns; a female who identifies as male should use the male pronouns.
Now, certainly, if I am writing about something athletic, I will often have a particular athlete in mind. Given how many of the athletes on my team are female, it is likely that the athlete I am picturing is also a female. In those cases, I will use the female pronoun. So, in specific cases use the pronoun that corresponds to that person.
Given that caveat, my updated rule is: Use the pronoun you personally identify with most, except in cases where a particular individual is in mind, in which case, use the one that corresponds to them.
Don’t let my eyeliner, glitter, and pink flip-flops fool you: I’m not ashamed to be a male. The word “he” is not a bad word.
NOTE: this is meant to be a guide for myself, not a rule I want others to follow. I’m more interested in explanations and explorations than I am in argumentation. That line can be fine, but it’s important to my way of thinking about things.
Now go lift something heavy,
PS. The picture is of my lady, Tamara, setting up for a snatch. Apparently, she is also hungry for a fish.