Notes on Language

1. You will occasionally see me use the gender-neutral pronouns ze (equivalent to "he" and "she"), and hir (equivalent to "him/his/her"). I do this for a couple of reasons. For one, it allows me to avoid awkward constructions such as "(s)he", "his or her", etc., which to my eye become cumbersome when used repeatedly within a sentence or paragraph. The other reason is that using ze/hir acknowledges that there are people whose gender identities are not represented by male or female pronouns, and that these people are still excluded by those who are attempting to be inclusive by using "he or she". I know ze/hir sounds awkward at first, but once you get used to it, you will never want to see "he or she" again.

2. I curse like a sailor, and I do not apologize for this. I think curse words are just words, and everyone is going to hear them eventually - including children. However, I try to avoid language that is offensive because it demeans people based on their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age, etc. If a word or phrase I use offends you for that reason, and not because it is a "curse word", please let me know. I probably either had some artistic reason for using it which I thought would work but it didn't, or I had no idea it was offensive in the first place. In either case, I don't want to be offensive in this way, so please help me not to be. (However, see points 3, 4, and 5 below for terms I have good reasons for using or not using.)

3. In what some may see as an exception to the above, there are specific groups for which I do not use "people-first" language. The main groups this applies to are the autistic community and the Deaf community, because large numbers of people from both of these communities have made it clear that they do not think their differences are something they "have", in the sense that it can be removed from them. I realize there is controversy within both of these communities as to what the proper usage should be, but as an autistic person I personally agree with the disability-as-identity view. For groups whose position I am not aware of, I use people-first language until I know to do otherwise. Thus, person with schizophrenia, person with cerebral palsy, but autistic person, Deaf person. See Sinclair for further explanation.

4. Though the term "person of color" has become popular in feminist/equalist spaces, I find it problematic and try to avoid using it. I feel that it genericizes all people who are any ethnicity other than white into a single homogeneous group, and the term itself smacks of the "Colored" branding that has been used to segregate black people in South Africa and the United States. Occasionally I will use people of color, in situations where I absolutely must refer to everyone who does not have white privilege in one fell swoop (which I try to avoid), but I try never to use person of color when I could instead simply say what that person's ethnicity is.

5. I call people fat. I do not use this in a derogatory way, but simply as an adjective. I believe in fat acceptance, and I believe that euphemisms like "person of size", "plus-size", "curvy", etc. add to the perception of fat as a Very Bad Thing that must be avoided, feared, and if it somehow does creep into our consciousness, lied about. (It's the Voldemort principle: fear of naming a thing increases fear of the thing itself.) I use "fat" in the same way I might use other, neutral adjectives such as thin, tall, brunette, etc. I also call myself fat - please do not take this as your cue to tell me I am not. I am not putting myself down when I say that I am fat. What I am saying is that I cannot shop in straight-sized (size 0-12) women's clothing stores, my BMI is considered obese, and when politicians rant about the "obesity epidemic" as if fat bodies were a bigger problem than global warming, the oil crisis, and the war in Iraq combined, they are talking about my body. If my body doesn't look obese to you, that should tell you something about the amount of bullshit being levelled at fat people these days. Just think how the people who do look obese to you are being treated.

6. On a much lighter and more personal note than any of the above, whenever you see me make any reference to "my parents", unless I specify that I'm talking about my mother and father, I am usually referring to my mother and grandmother instead, because that's who raised me for most of my childhood.