Respecting Norms: A Response to Those who Call for Pronoun Normalization
Recently, Katkat, a biological male contestant on Drag Race Philippines Season 2, expressed his disappointment at being referred to as 'Sir' at a Japanese restaurant. He took to social media, sharing his experience and calling for a societal shift towards the normalization of asking for one’s gender pronouns. While the spirit of inclusivity and respect underlying his statement is commendable, I believe that it also skips over an important consideration: cultural norms and traditions.
To begin with, it's crucial to understand that the concept and practice of asking for gender pronouns is primarily an American phenomenon. It arises from a society that has had its own unique sociocultural journey, leading to its current attitudes towards gender identity and expression. However, it may not necessarily fit seamlessly into other cultures, including our own.
In the Philippines, where we have our own rich tapestry of social norms, customs, and traditions, the introduction of such a practice could lead to confusion and discomfort. For one, it might be seen as an imposition of Western values, disregarding our own societal norms. Furthermore, it could also put undue pressure on individuals who might not fully understand or are uncomfortable with the concept of gender fluidity, leading to unintentional offense and misunderstanding.
This is not to say that we should not strive for inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity. On the contrary, it is imperative that we do so. However, it's equally important to respect and uphold our own cultural norms and values.
Referring to Katkat's incident, labeling the waiter as 'ignorant' is unfair. The waiter, in using the term 'Sir', was likely following societal norms and his own understanding, not intending any disrespect or harm. If we want to change such practices, the key lies in education and dialogue, not in imposing new norms that may not resonate with our cultural context.
It's also important to remember that the LGBTQIA+ community is a part of our society, and not a separate entity. Their struggles and concerns are our struggles and concerns. However, advocating for change should not come at the cost of alienating others or disrespecting established norms.
What we need is a balanced approach that respects individual identities while also considering the cultural contexts we operate within. We should work towards creating a society that respects and acknowledges all identities without imposing foreign concepts abruptly or without adequate understanding.
Moreover, it is essential to address the confusion that arises when certain elements of society begin to overemphasize inclusivity to the point of absurdity. We have witnessed instances where movie makers cast a Latina actress to play the role of Snow White or ban certain varieties of toys due to the fear of offending specific groups. While the intentions behind these actions may be well-meaning, they often result in a paradoxical situation
where the pursuit of inclusivity starts to overshadow common sense and cultural appreciation.
When we become overly preoccupied with avoiding any potential offense, we risk losing sight of what is truly important: respecting and understanding the normal. By fixating on trivial matters that may be misconstrued as disrespectful, we inadvertently disrespect the majority who adhere to the established cultural norms. It is crucial to find a balance between promoting inclusivity and safeguarding the essence of our cultural heritage.
In the quest for inclusivity, we must remember that diversity encompasses a wide range of perspectives. While it is essential to acknowledge and respect the experiences of marginalized communities, we should avoid pressuring everyone to conform to a single, uniform standard. Celebrating diversity should not come at the cost of erasing or belittling the experiences of the majority.
It is worth noting that cultural norms are not stagnant; they evolve over time. However, this evolution should occur naturally, with open dialogue and mutual understanding among all members of society. Imposing sudden and drastic changes in the name of inclusivity risks breeding resentment and further divisions within our communities.
Rather than focusing on trivial matters that may inadvertently disrespect the normal, our collective energy would be better utilized by addressing more pressing issues. Let us direct our efforts towards combating discrimination, promoting equal opportunities, and ensuring that everyone, regardless of gender identity or expression, is treated with dignity and respect. By fostering an environment of understanding and compassion, we can create a society in which everyone feels valued and accepted.
Inclusivity and respect should not be at odds with upholding cultural norms. It is possible to strike a balance that celebrates diversity while also cherishing our shared heritage. Let us move forward with a nuanced approach, one that acknowledges the importance of inclusivity without undermining the value of our cultural traditions.
A journey towards inclusivity and acceptance is a long one. It requires patience, understanding, and above all, respect for both the individual and the collective. Let's strive for a society that embraces diversity while also cherishing its unique cultural heritage. After all, what is normal but a reflection of the society we live in? Let's shape that 'normal' together, in a way that respects our past, cherishes our present, and looks forward to a future of respect and understanding.
Kuya J Pelayo IV is a Kapampangan broadcast journalist. For comments and suggestions, e-mail at email@example.com