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Nat Sci College Email: Use “Singular They” and Increase Transgender Visibility

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Author: Sergei Kelley

On April 5, 2019 a college wide email uncovered by The Morning Watch, was sent by the Michigan State University (MSU) Natural Science college titled, “Increasing transgender visibility on campus.”

The email asked students to “reflect on how visibility of minoritized groups is essential to changing our campus culture,” and provided several online resource links to help improve understanding.

The email was sent from The NatSci Council on Diversity and Community.

These included links to LGBTQ resource centers, how to “learn about and start using the singular they,” hosting queer inclusive workshops, inviting “transgender and gender diverse scientists”, books of transgender scientists, and guides about transphobia.

The email specifically stated, “no science is needed to support transgender and non-binary identities, it is simply a matter of affirming their experiences.”

In the colorful and interactive web page titled, “I [heart] the Singular They,” mapped out the benefits and tools of using the singular they. The page cites the “Singular They” as being “neutral”, “easy”, “inclusive”, and “classy”.

They describe the utility of the singular they, citing, “writing with non-gender-neutral pronouns is a serious pain. Some prefer the Frankenword “s/he,” while others rack their brain. Some stick with a particular pronoun for one paragraph or chapter, then swap out the one they’re using; others alternate “he” and “she” by sentence, or use a plural adapter, but that all sounds confusing.”

Stated as a “cuddle celebration”, the singular they “[is] a metaphorical blanket that can cover the human population (which, non-metaphorically, would be a cuddle celebration).”

The page further states, “They” doesn’t assume a person’s gender, and it doesn’t assume there are only two.”

The page ends with a call to action. “So, Gentle Internet, hear my call now and spread it far and wide: By the end of 2016, let's get Singular They adopted by every style guide [professional and academic].”

The email’s link to “learn about the transphobia citizens face” is an accountability project to “put critical information about frequent anti-gay interviewees into the hands of newsrooms, editors, hosts and reporters.”

According to the site, these “anti-LGBT voices” compare LGBTQ persons to Nazi Germany, predict collapse of society with equal LGBTQ treatment, and “even [are] making accusations of satanic influence.”

Students of the Natural Science College had mixed reactions.

Ashley Deaton, a Food Science and Microbiology freshman, told The Morning Watch, “I believe this email may come across as effective,” but she disagreed with its intention.

“Emails, like the one we were sent, are dangerous in that they push a single mentality that actually isn't as straight-forward as people may believe.”

MSU student Shad Soldano thought differently. While he admitted the email “did take me by surprise” he told The Morning Watch, “I feel that the email (in my understanding) portrays a good cause in bringing awareness and hopefully eliminating remaining prejudices towards the transgender community.”

Soldano is a sophomore studying Physiology.

The email concluded with a call to educate oneself to create an inclusive community.

The Morning Watch reached out to the email sender but could not get comment.

Contributor: Sergei Kelley

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