Twitter Newspeak: You Must Say “Caitlyn Jenner Won the Decathlon in 1976”

Twitter Newspeak: You Must Say “Caitlyn Jenner Won the Decathlon in 1976” November 29, 2018

American street artist Shepard Fairey comes to London's east end. Brick Lane, 2007 (tim rich and lesley katon CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
American street artist Shepard Fairey comes to London’s east end. Brick Lane, 2007 (tim rich and lesley katon CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Twitter has just banned deadnaming and misgendering. This means you must call people by their preferred name and pronouns. You can’t refer to someone by what they were previously known as. As I posted on Twitter:


Banning Deadnaming

As the new “Hateful Comment Policy” says.

We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals. [emphasis mine]

This was first brought to everyone’s attention by a Twitter user whose pinned tweet includes “trans lesbian anarchist.” She thinks this is a good thing.

I agree with most of this because targeted harassment or dehumanizing slurs are not a good thing. However, banning references to what people were seems to go a little far.

Consequences of Such a Ban

The title of this article shows how such a ban erases history. A person named Bruce Jenner won the 1976 Olympic Decathlon. Later, that person decided to change names to Caitlyn. A historically accurate description would note Bruce won. The Olympic site includes this while Google has changed the winner to “Caitlyn.”

Along with this, a different individual who struggling with sexual identity issues pointed out a few other issues with this policy.

I don’t think the “new chapter analogy” is the best but changing your name doesn’t mean the old self is dead.

Twitter is also taking a very specific ideological policy: it is a policy that even many trans individuals don’t agree on.

Finally, this person notes the problems that people may have when they want to bring out an individual’s ugly past.

Deadnaming as Newspeak

In George Orwell’s 1984, the ruling English Socialists (Ingsoc) of Oceania invent Newspeak to exert social and mental control over their populace. Newspeak at first sounds like English but it forbids using certain words so that people will avoid certain ideas. Banning deadnaming bans names instead of words like Newspeak. However, like Newspeak, there is a certain banning of thought. If you can’t deadname, it would seem difficult or impossible to debate topics around transgenderism like if a gender can really be changed.

In general, I think it is proper politeness to call someone the name they say is theirs but banning prior names creates other problems.

I’m against bullying and harassment but we should be able to do so without banning whole categories of speech. We should be able to have a respectful debate without such bans. Free speech is important for a just debate of ideas.

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