Stop Turning My Trauma into your Tool of Oppression

You’re Not Being Clever, You’re Being Ableist and Transphobic


Image by Kat Love from Pixabay

A pparently the new transphobic trend is to bring up Dissociative Identity Disorder as a way to poke fun at the concept of they/them pronouns. My trauma and the trauma of others with this condition is now fodder for those who can’t pull their heads out of their arse long enough to even educate themselves on the use of singular they.

“They/them isn’t grammatically correct unless you have multiple personalities,” is the argument I’ve been seeing around the internet lately. These people think they are clever. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is the new diagnostic name for Multiple Personality Disorder, I also have a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and I learned enough to know some basic linguistic ideas.

My alters and I use we/us pronouns when speaking about ourselves, and our friends use she/they, and strangers use she because I present as female and am a cisgender female. My community of inside people aren’t the butt of someone’s transphobic “joke.” (If a joke hurts someone, it’s not a joke, just thought I’d throw that out there). We are here because of intense, severe trauma, and not for your entertainment or to make a point for your crappy politcally oppressive ideas.

Moving on to grammar and the use of singular “they.” The use of they as a singular pronoun has been traced back to at least the 1300’s, and the 1300’s have been around much longer than your shitty attitude towards transgender and gender non conforming people. The Oxford English Dictionary claims that using they as a singular pronoun has been traced back to 1375 and was used in a text named William and the Werewolf.

Now lets talk some basic linguistics. Even if “they” didn’t already exist as a singular pronoun, even an elementary knowledge of linguistics shows that that languages grow and change, to fit the needs of the populations that speak them. English has evolved over the years, and even English isn’t standard.

I speak the Queen’s English, although living in the United States has “corrupted” it some, and then there is American English, and dialects like Pidgin English which uses some basic English words scattered in with other sounds or ways of communicating that has been made up quickly in order for different groups of people to communicate with each other in places like Papua New Guinea.

I haven’t used any Pidgin in at least twenty years, but even it adapts as it goes along. I can remember some songs sung in Pidgin and I’m sure I could pick up anything I needed again relatively quickly, but the point is that linguistically, language changes. Pidgin was developed with many English words among other things so that people in remote areas could understand each other enough to get by.

When people from Papua New Guinea arrive in Australia, they have some basic English words they can use to communicate while trying to figure the rest of the language out, which is why some of us learned some Pidgin, so we could help them in that process. The way people communicate evolves.

I’ve already discussed that there is reliable evidence that the concept of “they” as a singular pronoun has been around a long time. I understand that some people didn’t learn that in English class, but that doesn’t make it not true. Even if it were true, it is used as a singular pronoun now, and so the English language makes small changes as needs change, and so it would still be a legitimate use of they.

Besides, in our society, it’s in usage as a singular pronoun and has been for a long time. Here are some examples:

“My friend went to use the bathroom, they will be out soon.”

“I don’t know whose notebook that is, but if they come asking after it, it’s in the green chair by the window.”

“I can’t leave here, so if they need a drink, they will have to come here and get it.”

They aren’t ready for you to know that yet.”

I’ve demonstrated that not only do we use they as a singular pronoun in everyday conversation, but I’ve also discussed how languages change over time, and that they has been understood as also being used as a singular pronoun since the 1300’s. If all of that isn’t enough for you, and you wish to remain ignorant on such matters, I won’t stop you, but I will consider your stubbornness as transphobic nonsense.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a serious mental health issue, and those of us who live with it work very hard to overcome the limitations it has imposed on us. I work very hard to work through my trauma, and I and my alters don’t exist to be used as a weapon of oppression.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.



MaryClare StFrancis, M.A. (she/her)

I write nonfiction essays about a variety of topics, as well as memoir pieces.