A couple of days ago I read that the singer Demi Lovato now identifies as non-binary and has changed their pronouns to they/them. Here is the BBC’s report.
I have to admit that I find the concept of changing one’s gender identity and pronouns hard to relate to. I think I am too used to the idea of gender identity meaning male or female. With that mindset, the rejection of he or she as a pronoun makes no sense.
That notwithstanding, you will note that in the first paragraph I used Lovato’s preferred pronoun. Although converting her to their feels awkward, this isn’t about my feelings but Lovato’s preferences. Speaking of my feelings: how would I feel if my preferred pronouns were ignored? That question sweeps away all difficulties.
I read about Demi Lovato’s new self-identification on Twitter. The tweeter added that they were happy that Lovato had found ‘their truth’. This idea of truth existing in a subjective way has been around for a while. I don’t know why: it implies that two people could hold completely opposite views, or truths, and both could still be regarded as valid. To be fair, this is sometimes possible. Other times, however, it certainly is not.
a: I believe in free market economics
b: I believe in a command economy
There is nothing wrong with holding either of these positions
c: I believe in democratic government
d: I believe in a fascist form of government
Who would argue that these beliefs are of equal value?
But if you believe that truth is subjective (which you have to if you believe that people can have their own truths, because you can’t believe in both its subjectivity and objectivity) how could you argue against (d). They would simply say ‘This is my truth’.
I am happy for Demi Lovato. I am happy that they have found the answer to a problem in respect of their self-identity. I hope it gives them great peace and helps them to live a happy, and good, life. I hope also, though, that we leave this idea of subjective truth behind. In regards Lovato, it does them no justice. Firstly, it minimises the significance of what is hopefully a great step forward in their self-understanding (because maybe Lovato has found an answer that is objectively true and is worth celebrating as such). Secondly, it seriously undermines the speaker’s ability to argue against bad ideas.