Like many of us, I never got to talk to my parents about things like sexuality and transgender topics. Both of my parents would have been mortified to have the subject raised over the Sunday roast. And then they died.
To be fair, I don’t think either of them were quite ready to talk about such topics. They were born in the 1930’s and these are subjects that simply weren’t on the agenda during their lifetime. That is not to say that they don’t have a contribution to make on the subject of ‘Pronouns’.
My mother, a girdle wearing statuesque woman of conservative English values, held one thing above all others. Politeness to others. Had I told her that a guest in our house identified as a punk rock hamster, then out of deference to the wishes of a guest we would have had to refer to the hamster at the table with unquestionable politeness and respect. I suspect that had Stalin or Mao showed up in our English parlour for tea, we would be expected to hold out the chair, sit after they had taken their place and make polite conversation about the intemperate weather and the promising outlook for the turnip crop this year.
Raising the subject of genocide, persecution of minorities or (God forbid) the forced labor camp deaths of homosexual prisoners would have been considered bad form and may have resulted in a reluctance to return for tea another time. Admittedly this exact scenario never played out in our home counties home, but I think you can see where I am going with this.
Equally, it can come as no surprise that when my father watched a documentary about German prisoners of war – a small number of which escaped from a prison camp in Northern England in 1944 – he stared at the television screen with visible disdain. For the Waffen SS officers to have dug a tunnel out of the confines of a prison with a desert spoon merited their being sentenced to hang immediately, if for no better reason than to do so using a desert spoon, before the use of main course cutlery, was practically a crime against humanity. Well, English humanity, at least.
So, I can say with absolute certainty that had someone come to the house and mentioned that their chosen pronoun was ‘they’, then the matter was settled. They would be a ‘they’ from that moment on.
As archaic as it may seem, this concept holds true as well today as it did in their lives. Whether straight, gay or any shade between, their principal object was to be polite and treat people with respect. To date I have yet to come across a system that improves on this simple behaviour. After all, when we do behave in this manner people do generally treat us with respect in return.
Now, I have to put the tea on. I’m expecting Kim Jong-un any moment. The supreme leader wouldn’t like it if I failed to warm the pot before he arrives.