Integrating the Gender Normative Pronouns into the Work of United Nations Human Rights Treaties By Casey Chandler
First, it was only the rights of men that mattered, then women’s rights slowly made somewhat of an appearance, and now, the human rights movement has led to the freedom to express one’s true self. This may be an inalienable right; however, it poses a question for the international community: How can universality among peoples be attained if gender normative pronouns only express rights for certain individuals?
For many of the general population, gender normative pronouns undermine the principle of equality among all. It subjects people to fall under a certain category or define themselves as something they might not be. Within the English language, there is a large dichotomy between pronouns, such as his and her. This leaves little room for people who identify as something else. There is no third person inclusive pronoun that encompasses the entirety of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Some people may present the argument that “they” could be used as an inclusive
Term, but it has, in the past, been used to dehumanize people or alienate a group of people. Others find “they” liberating.
Treaties are defined to liberate human kind by setting principles that reflect the ethical treatment of beings. By defining how someone should identify themselves, it violates the end goal of liberating a person from discrimination. When member states distinguish the lack of attention and carelessness of the United Nations towards to LGBTIQA+ community, it allows derogation from general principles of discrimination. For example, in many states within the continent of Africa, homosexual activity is against the law. This concept denies humans to the right to expression and the right to life.
When treaties were first written, they solely mentioned the rights of man, as if man encompassed the entire human kind. Some treaties adopted new perspectives and tried to avoid pronouns in general, but the majority of treaties still use masculine pronouns to refer to the human race. For example, the UN Refugee Convention only uses masculine pronouns to describe the global population. The idea of adopting women’s pronouns into programs and treaties was reviewed in 1996, but it solely said that women have the same rights. There are people that don’t identify as either gender that still have the same rights due to the principle of natural rights. Gender exclusive pronouns are built into many languages. No one bothers trying to change or develop these rights because they have been set in stone for so long. Auto correct in papers suggests using either himself or herself instead of themselves because it is known as proper grammar. Things are slowly progressing, but there is much more within the international community that can liberate people who have been suppressed due to self-expression.
By Robson Swift
My therapist told me to write about things that upset me or make me feel really bad. I think it’s dumb. It’s not like writing my sorrows down will stop me from killing myself. But I’ll give it a go, maybe it will help. At this point I’m just passing time and waiting for it to stop for a while.
Even though you’ll never see this, (you kind of weaseled out of that one) I’m writing to you because you took so much from me. You did so much, every time I think of what you did my stomach churns and I shake uncontrollably. You did all this, you ruined my life and you did it all in one day, congratulations
There was always something off about you. I remember you telling me that you loved “Traveling to see everything the world has to offer, something more.” But you decided to live here. In the suburbs. A tree lined bubble, where the houses never change from the dull white and grey they’ve always been. Where lives in these houses are all the same and routine never changes, where life is a constant circle. You could’ve lived in the city, or in the jewel speckled hills where the rich people live, where houses sparkle with color and character and lives have variety. But you chose here. Was it to hide? Most monsters live in slimy, dark caves, but you chose to hide in plain sight. You chose a place that sleeps at night so you could hunt in the dark. Or was it the only place you could find and you fell into the cycle, felt stuck, started building up anger and desire, needed a release and I was there?
You were a cop. This makes me laugh. You were supposed to protect people and you killed me. You didn’t kill me in the classic way by shooting me or beating me to death because I’m still breathing, walking, my heart still beats, but like a murderer you took my life away. Was your job choice purposeful? Was it some sort of cover? In case I found strength to tell? I mean how could a police officer rape a kid right?
You were my friend. No, a father in a way, mine left and you were there. I would see you outside my window playing with your dogs in the court. I would jump with glee at the sight and run out. Maybe it was some sort of lure, a trap. I don’t know. I just used to feel so free, the wind in my hair, my feet shooting me across the open expanse of concrete. I would chase your dogs around, play catch and vicious games of tug of war. The dogs hopped around and ran with excitable energy. They were like children smiling, giggling with me. Siblings I always wanted, but never got. I miss those smiling children and their gleeful shouts. It’s funny. Back then the court seemed so open, so free, it was my meadow to run around, it was never ending fun. Now it chokes me, the houses are nothing more than white walls that threaten to strangle me. Did you ever feel like that?
Sometimes you’d invite me in to watch TV or to have a snack. That’s when we would talk, about everything. I’d tell you about my absent father and you would talk about your job and the horrors you faced, seeing people die and families torn apart. I didn’t understand what you were saying, but I could tell there was more. Was I the only one you trusted? So many people and I, an eight year old was the only person you could talk to. And even then, you were hiding.
I should have known! Every touch, every hair tussle, every hug, every pat on the shoulder flood back to my mind and make me want to vomit from anger. I should’ve fucking known! Every day with you in the court or at your house was like the rest of my childhood, a sort of blurry grey with just small moments of light, but this day, the day my life ended is painfully clear.
I can’t remember every detail, but it’s one of those days that I can still picture, it’s one of those days that I can still feel. I don’t remember what we were talking about. I don’t even know why I was in your house or what we were doing on your couch. I just remember you forcing my hands down your pants. I didn’t know what was happening, I just let it happen. I felt so scared and wrong. I tried to pull myself from your grasp, but then your hands covered my mouth and wrapped around my neck forcing me down. I don’t remember anything after that. Just pain shooting through me like heartbeats and the sound of a ticking clock.*tic toc tic toc tic toc*. I tried counting the tics as I stared at the white ceiling. It's sort of ironic or comedic in a way. White, the color of angels and heaven was all I could see. It’s like universe was taunting me with the things I lost.
After that I didn’t eat or talk. I mean what could I say? It was like being shot and not knowing what a bullet or a gun is. How can you tell someone what hurt you if you don’t know what hurt you? At first I just had the feeling of shock, I was frozen for years. I just stared out the window looking at the people in their dull houses. A month later, I saw your dogs playing in the street. They were hit by a car and they died.The children: dead.
The rape didn’t truly hit me until I was thirteen. Only then did I truly feel violated, you had taken control of my body and now it wasn’t my own. I couldn’t escape that day or you. You were at every corner, I could see you in everyone’s eyes. I couldn’t walk without fear. At night the day played over and over in my dreams. I would wake up in a cold sweat, my neck bleeding and my fingernails red from trying to claw you off. So many things changed. People were either monsters like you or like the white ceilings, mocking and dull. The houses used to smile at me as I ran through the court now their dull greys and pure whites hide secrets and pain, I’m sure there are so many people like me trapped in their agonizing monotony.
With this weighing me down I knew I couldn’t be happy or even just fine, like the people I saw on the street, so I cut myself. It was kind of comforting. That stabbing, with a real knife was better than the one I felt whenever I slept. Then I tried to kill myself. It was like a twig snapping. It wasn’t that I couldn’t take it. Death just seemed comforting, the idea I could feel nothing. I took my moms pills and hid in the basement. It was kind of warm as I drifted towards the dark nothing. Sounds of kids playing in the court echoed in the room. I could hear the cheerful pounding of their feet on the concrete and their laughs. Maybe I could do that again. This neighborhood is funny. Those kids would never have guessed what was happening in the house above them. They just played.
My mom thought it had something to do with my dad, or school. I try to tell her the truth, but its like these hands inside of me grab my throat and stop me. I could have told her in the hospital after my suicide attempt. I could have told her when I had break down in school and she had to drive me home. I feel like I betray her every time I can’t speak.
Only a month ago police cars surrounded your house. Your wife was in your front yard, collapsed, pounding her fists on the ground as she cried and screamed. Your sons tried to calm her, but they were crying themselves. Your colleagues had tears in their eyes. At that time you just killed yourself: a bullet through the head. I wanted to be relieved or happy. But I was furious that I actually cried. At first, when I cried I didn’t know why, pulses of just pure emotion ran through me, I can’t categorize it. It made me beyond angry that you still found a way into my mind, into my life. But in a way I think I cried for you. I’ll never feel bad for you, if there is a hell you’re in it. But you must have suffered so much. And I know that suffering, I went through it and did what you did. Only, you succeeded.
I know this sounds creepy, but I imagine it. Not in graphic detail or even the bullet going through your head. I just image the blood against the white walls. I imagine it not only in your room where you died, but over the outside of your house too. On the doors, windows, all over your garden and on the roof. I think that blood is over all these houses. Splattered on all their white walls and brown roofs. It’s the kind of blood that no amount of paint will cover up, the kind of blood most people don’t really see. Only we can see it because we’re covered in it.
I went to the hospital after my suicide attempt, and a little while later I started going to my therapist. After one therapy session, I came home and then decided to walk outside. I walked past the dull, blood-stained houses and their accusing eyes. They still made feel trapped and they still choked me, but then I looked at the sky. It was cloudy, a soft wind swelled and made the trees rustle quietly. I love weather like that. I passed flowers that were on the side of the road. I don’t know what kind they were. They were just so bright, almost neon. The yellows and oranges illuminated. I stood there for what felt like forever. They called to me. I just wanted to walk, but they held me. Their stares burned, after a while their colors hurt. I would’ve given everything to look away, but I didn’t. Their eyes, kinder than the houses, looked up at me. I swore that they smiled. They were just so innocent. They weren’t covered in blood, like this place. Like us. They were protected from these houses.They were what people think this place is: peaceful.
It made me feel sick that the neighborhood doesn’t know. But why would they? Isn’t this what they wanted? To pretend that they’re somehow different because of their pretty uniform houses guarded by pretty trees? Free from its blood and gore? In a way, they’re all suffering. My mom, our other neighbors, the kids in the street. They’re trapped in a horror that they created for themselves, in their minds. Ignorance is violent, it is suffering. I hope they break free. I hope they find peace.
I am so sad that I didn’t see you suffer for what you did to me. You might have, but I wanted to see it. I wanted to see you to sit with what you did to me and burn. I can’t do anything now. I can’t have a relationship. I betray my mom every day because of you. You showed me what this place is; nobody deserves that. Everyone deserves to be blind to the houses. I fucking hate everything you are, everything you are to me! I’ll never understand what you did. Or why. At this point I barely care. I’m so tired.
Everyone takes being okay for granted until they are constantly tortured by their own minds. I was one of those people. I would give up everything to be like that again. I am so terrified that that might never happen. All I can do is wait for the answer. I hope that I have the patience.
Sincerely, One of many.