Of That Which is Proper, Polite and Courteous

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to do NaBloPoMo instead. Sort of. I didn’t post on the 1st, but I plan to post twice ether today or tomorrow so I’ll still have 30 posts. I’m not using the prompts because they are dull and not really relevant so you’ll have to put up with me ranting. Basically, I’m doing it all wrong. Oh well, well-behaved women never make history

Brighton & Hove city council has revealed plans to remove titles (Mr/Ms/Mrs) from official correspondence. This decision came about after consultation with Brighton’s transgender community, which revealed many of its members felt constricted by this binary gender definition.

As far as I’m concerned this is nothing less than a brilliant thing and nothing more need be said. It shows genuine respect and compassion for their fellow human beings. What is two or three meaningless letters on a piece of paper compared to the happiness and comfort of others?

But it would seem I am mostly alone in feeling this way. It seems this plan might not go ahead, as a lot of people seem to have what they feel are pretty valid reasons why this shouldn’t happen. Maybe there is something I am overlooking, so in the interests of “fairness”, here goes.

“What about those who those of us who want to be addressed as Mr and Mrs on forms? Don’t we have any rights?”

I considered leaving this one alone, because it smacks too much of Why isn’t there a white history month?/Where’s the straight pride parade?/Feminism has gone too far. (If you find yourself nodding in agreement right now, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.) But it does raise some pretty interesting questions.

Becoming a Dr takes a whole lot of medical training or a large amount of academic study. Reverend is (one would hope at least) a higher calling. Military titles are a symbol of service. I can understand people wanting to hold on to the titles they’ve worked so hard, maybe sacrificed things for. And no-one is suggesting we get rid of them. But why are people so determined to hold onto their gender based titles?

Why do women want to hold on to titles that are inherently sexist? That define them by whether or not they happen to be married? Ms doesn’t make them a woman any more than lipstick or gossiping in a shop doorway. Why do men want to be called Mr? It doesn’t make them manlier any more than a stonking moustache or aggressive posturing in the pub. What’s the difference between Mr Joe Public & Mrs Jane Public and Joe and Jane Public? Surely it’s better to be defined as yourself than simply as a member of your gender?

“How are they going to address the letters properly?”

This is quite possibly my favourite objection of all.  Can’t you just see the quivering chins?

‘Oh lord! Save us all from the heathens! Now we can’t address our letters properly. Next they will be telling us that everyone has to close their letters with the words peace out. Have mercy!’

I mean, don’t people always leave a party as soon as the guest of honour (probably the oldest woman present) has left? Aren’t people always on time because anything else would be unforgivably rude? Don’t people refrain from mentioning their friends’ names on the street for fear of being indiscreet? Proper rules of etiquette are after all immutable. We mustn’t change this one either.

Um, just a suggestion here? But they could maybe address you by your name? Dear Jane Public doesn’t sound so bad. Okay, I know it can sometimes be a bit creepy, those “Miss? Hannah? Can I call you Hannah?” cold  callers make me shudder. But there’s a lot more to being courteous than calling people by the right title at the right time. There might –shock horror- have to be a  serious conversation about it and  some sort of pilot study to find out a system that works. It might be unnatural and awkward at first, but I believe it could be done. Hell, I’m hoping this scheme gets rolled out across the whole country.

 “Just political correctness gone too far.”

Aah, I was wondering when this one might show up. Allow me to translate. *shoves a babelfish in your ear*

‘I don’t want to do [thing} because it might cause me to look more closely at my own internal prejudices and think about how my actions affect other people. Also, I might forget, and then I’ll look stupid’

Newsflash! People often do stupid hurtful things. But a heartfelt apology and learning from your mistakes goes a long way. Trust me. But that’s not really the point I’m trying to make here.

Propriety is often rigid, focused too much on rules and not enough on consequences. Politeness is too often an excuse to not speak up when we really should, because that would Be Rude. But political correctness is not a matter of propriety, or socialised politeness. It’s a matter of basic fucking courtesy to your fellow human beings, acknowledging they have the same rights as you do to, life, love, happiness and  finding comfort in their own skin as the person they define themselves as.

And if this scheme could help with that, why shouldn’t it?


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