Colin Brazier: Pronoun nonsense has terrible consequences for us all

It’s a modern day purity test. Fail it, start talking about your right to free expression, and you may kiss goodbye any chance of further corporate advancement

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A couple of years ago a 32-year-old obese American went to casualty. He was complaining of abdominal pain.

He’d stopped taking a drug to treat his high-blood pressure. The nurse surmised that was the problem. So not an emergency. But it was, the man was actually in labour, but by THIS time it was too late to help the unborn baby, which didn’t survive. The patient didn’t know he was pregnant and - here’s the point - the hospital didn’t even consider that possibility because the medical records made no mention that HE had once been a SHE.

It sounds like the stuff of urban mythology. But it’s actually a case written up a couple of years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine. And it’s an extreme reminder of what happens when ideology trumps reality, when a desire not to cause offence, leads to very real harm.

It’s all the more shocking because you might expect medical data to be the last place where trans activism would take hold. But if you think that’s true, you obviously haven’t been paying attention during the nightly de-radicalisation classes that I’ve been holding with Andrew Doyle.

It was British clinicians, not Americans, who recently came up with the word ‘chest-feeding’; lest anyone improperly took a breast-feeding mother who now identified as a man, to be a woman. By this point, you’re probably thinking about putting on the kettle. How does any of this unhinged transgender stuff affect you.

Well, if it hasn’t already, it will soon. Because in the not-too-distant-future, you are going to have to make a choice. About whether you will describe what you see, or whether you will let someone decide that for you.

What do I mean? I mean that quite soon, if it hasn’t happened yet, you are going to get into trouble for mis-gendering someone. Or you are going to find yourself in hot water by declining the opportunity to define yourself, not just by your name, but according to your preferred gender pronoun.

Over the weekend, a couple of strong clues about which way the pronoun wind is blowing. It’s long moved off campus and is now very much the Next Big Thing for under-employed HR departments in both the private and public sectors.

The public sector? Officials at the Ministry of Defence being asked to say whether they want to be known as He/Him, or She/Her, or they/them. And the private sector? Marks and Spencer, the latest woke employer revealed this weekend to be handing out ‘pronoun badges’, so you don’t misgender someone as you ask them in which aisle the clotted cream might be found. What does this look like in practise?

In five years time, could we see every person who introduces themselves on TV obliged to clarify which gender they are? “Hi, I’m Colin Brazier, I identify as He/Him, here are tonight’s headlines.”

The moment I realised I could no longer stay with my last employer was the moment it went along with a request from the singer Sam Smith, who wanted to be known as "they/them”. As I read the words put together by colleagues, I genuinely couldn’t understand whether ‘they’ was referring to another person in the story, or ‘they’ meant Sam Smith.

Journalism is meant to be about lucid communication, using the lexicon most people employ and understand, governed by common rules of grammar we share.

Journalism shouldn’t be a vehicle for semantic or social engineering. But of course it is. And it’s been done by a minority who believe they get to set the rules of the game. So we end up with the situation we had earlier this year, when sports reporters at the Olympics felt they had to refer to a weightlifter like Laurel Hubbard as ‘she’, even though ‘she’ had been a ‘he’ and that gave ‘her’ an inbuilt and enduring physical advantage.

Go along with the language, and you go along with the fiction that a level playing field exists between someone who grew up fortified by testosterone as a man, and a biological woman who didn’t. It gets really serious when we’re talking about crime. I

’m told that some journalists now report things like sexual assault, as if both perpetrator and victim are female, because the rapist - goes by the pronouns she/her, even though she/her has male genitalia. That’s my industry. What about yours. What happens when the company you work for insists you start adding your preferred gender pronoun on emails.

Do you kick off, or take the line of least resistance. It’s a modern day purity test. Fail it, start talking about your right to free expression, and you may kiss goodbye any chance of further corporate advancement. This is how woke works.

You will not be able to avoid its moral contortions just because you think it's absurd. That's the Brazier Angle.