"Playing the pronoun game" is the act of concealing sexual orientation in conversation by not using a gender-specific pronoun for a partner or a lover, which would reveal the sexual orientation of the person speaking. Most often, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (LGB) employ the pronoun game when conversing with people to whom they have not "come out". In some situations, where a LGB person revealing their sexual orientation would have adverse consequences (such as the loss of their job), playing the pronoun game is seen to be a necessary act of concealment.
The pronoun game involves deception without lying, by letting the listener assume a sexual orientation that they would regard as inoffensive. It also involves not drawing the listener's attention to the fact that the sex of a pronoun's antecedent is not being specified. As such, playing the pronoun game involves:
- re-phrasing sentences such that they avoid the need for third-person singular sex-specific pronouns (e.g. "It was decided that we would eat out," rather than "She decided that we would eat out."), often using circumlocution;
- using gender-neutral language such as "firefighter" rather than "fireman", phrases such as "my partner", "the better half" or "my significant other", or the person's name where it isn't sex or gender-specific; and
- using gender-neutral pronouns that have long since entered common usage, such as singular they, without employing unusual, and thus attention-calling, gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or sie and hir.
Often, people playing the pronoun game regard it as stressful. The blatant concealment of pronoun-gender makes the sexual orientation of the player just as obvious as it would have been had the game never been played.
Artists may play the pronoun game by addressing their works in the second person rather than using gender pronouns for the objects of affection in songs or written works. For example, Pet Shop Boys' cover version of the song Always on My Mind released in 1987 changed Elvis Presley's version from Girl, I'm sorry I was blind to I'm so sorry I was blind. Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys himself disclosed his homosexuality in 1993.
See also Edit
- Wofford, Brittany. "Fun with pronouns publisher=Independent Weekly", 2002-06-19.
- The pronoun game (and other related phenomena). Retrieved on June 12, 2005.
- A look at language and gender in Latin and English. Language and Culture, ANTH 3063. Retrieved on June 12, 2005.
- Straight Friends at Fest. Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Discussion Forum. Retrieved on June 12, 2005. which discusses how heterosexual people also play the pronoun game to hide their sexual orientation in predominantly homosexual environments
- The pronoun game. Retrieved on June 12, 2005.
- "Who's That Lady?", CityBeat, 2001-05-16.
- Anthropological diary. Retrieved on June 14, 2005. which discusses the avoidance of lying
- For an example of a pronoun game used in the writing of a novel, read Le Bonheur dans le crime by Jacqueline Harpman (Stock, 1993 and 1996 and Labor, 1999)
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