A writer defended her decision to free her cats from “the gender binary” by raising them “gender-neutral” in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday.
“Don’t laugh,” the headline begins.
Image source: Shutterstock
Lauren Taylor, a freelance writer and a part-time multi-platform editor at the Washington Post, wrote that she decided to raise her cats gender-neutral when she accidentally referred to her female cats as “boys.”
“Whoops! I had called them boys, when in fact they were girls,” Taylor wrote. “An understandable mistake, as I’ve had cats for about 50 years, and all of them have been male. ‘I’m going to have to work on using the right pronouns,’ I thought. And then another thought: ‘Why? They’re cats.’”
Taylor argued that “the cats’ lives wouldn’t change” and it would encourage her to put thought into the pronouns she used for others.
She settled on the plural pronouns “they, their and them” to describe her cats because although “it’s grammatically incorrect, it seems to be the most popular solution to the question of how to identify people without requiring them to conform to the gender binary of female and male.”
Taylor wrote that sometimes she is guilty of “misgendering” her cats, “saying something like 'Where’s your brother?' (Yes, I talk to my cats.)”
“Usually, I’d remember to fix it ('Where’s your sibling?' or 'Where’s your pal?'),” she continued. “Just as I’d hoped, I began finding it easier to remember to use gender-neutral language for the humans in my life.”
A slight complication in using a plural pronoun for one cat arose when one of the cats, Essence, became ill and required a trip to the vet’s office.
“I took them to the vet and had to weigh the question: Do I explain their pronouns not only to the vet, but also the front-desk workers, the vet techs, and everyone else we interacted with?” Taylor wrote.
Taylor “chose to fall back on my cis-gender privilege (look it up) and used the singular pronoun.”
“I understood that wouldn’t have been so easy if I were the patient — or if Essence were human.”
She continued to use a plural pronoun for her cat when discussing the cat’s illness with her friends.
“’Wait a minute – are they both sick?’ people would reply, confused,” Taylor wrote. “It is confusing. We’ve had gender drilled into us as part of language since we first heard adults talking when we were infants – decades of ‘he’ and ‘she.’
“But at the same time it’s necessary,” Taylor argued.
“People are coming to understand that not all of us fit into the 'girl' box or the 'boy' box. Those who don’t are claiming space to be who they are. We all need to find ways to acknowledge and respect that. My way of respecting it just happens to be raising my cats gender neutral.”
The article inspired a great deal of reaction on Twitter.
Not the Onion. https://t.co/1uPYAcDnh4— D.J. Grothe (@D.J. Grothe) 1459951933.0
Okay. How about we just laugh at you for calling your cat Essence? https://t.co/uOLSlKfroP— Andrew Coyne (@Andrew Coyne) 1459899092.0
This is the most 2016 op-ed ever written. https://t.co/lRKUseajL3— Andrew Klavan (@Andrew Klavan) 1459891260.0
maybe this is why you have cats https://t.co/77BhkiXYuc— James Taranto (@James Taranto) 1459887968.0
I was way ahead of the curve. I always treated my pet rock in a gender neutral way. https://t.co/QD34G9ati8— Jonah Goldberg (@Jonah Goldberg) 1459887860.0
"I have a serious reason for raising my cats gender-neutral" or "How I let my liberal guilt get the best of me" https://t.co/4rzbv2J4Zk— marisa kabas (@marisa kabas) 1459869973.0
Peak cat lady? Remember the imp. things in troubled times,like the need to address cats by gender-neutral pronouns.😂 https://t.co/vM2IZxu7AY— Inez Stepman (@Inez Stepman) 1459867283.0
The comments on this piece of insanity = hilarious. 😸😹 https://t.co/Zj5aLPaGRY— Rita Panahi (@Rita Panahi) 1459928934.0