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Helen Zille's 'just lose those wokus-pokus pronouns' comment leaves tweeps angered

DA's federal council chairperson, Helen Zille attend Cape Town Pride on Saturday alongside DA leader, John Steenhuisen. Picture: DA Western Cape

DA's federal council chairperson, Helen Zille attend Cape Town Pride on Saturday alongside DA leader, John Steenhuisen. Picture: DA Western Cape

Published Mar 3, 2022


Cape Town - The DA's federal council chairperson, Helen Zille, has caused some annoyance on Twitter when her comment, which appeared well-meaning, ended up shaming one user for including their pronouns on their profile.

The furore started when a Twitter user had posted about persevering through their personal challenges and got a place where they are “happy and healthy and grateful to be alive and independent again”.

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Zille congratulated them, but then ended up taking a surprising turn with her last sentence.

“Good for you. Wonderful story when people go to the depths of the abyss and find their way out again. Just lose those wokus-pokus pronouns,” Zille tweeted.

Her comments on pronouns refers to the Twitter user specifying their use of she/her pronouns in their biography section of their profile.

The user responded to Zille’s comments, stating:

“’I’ll lose my pronouns when we have equal rights for all genders and orientations and we as a society feel so comfortable with one another that those things don’t matter. Until then, I will announce my pronouns.”

Many people have recently included their pronoun use on their social media platform as being inclusive, and also combating misgendering people.

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Dr Nyx McLean, a researcher who specialises in LGBTQIA+ identities and communities, had previously written about this for the Cape Argus in their piece “The importance of correct pronouns”.

They stated that the purpose of using someone’s correct pronouns is that it affirms the identity of the person you’re engaging with.

“Someone who may have recently told you that they’re a transgender person, be it a transman, transwoman or a genderqueer/non-binary person.

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“This has been a difficult step for them, they’ve had to find it in themselves to acknowledge their identity and how they feel, then they’ve had to find the courage to tell those closest to them, and all the while moving through a world that isn’t always supportive of transgender people.

“In getting their pronouns right, especially after the difficulty in getting to the point where they’ve trusted you with who they are and how they would like to be referred to, you bring much needed relief to their emotional and psychological wellbeing.

“It is stressful, frustrating and sometimes agonising being a transgender person. When your friends, your partner, parents, colleagues acknowledge your gender identity, and make the effort to use the correct pronouns for you, correct themselves when they get it wrong, and do the work to correct other people, it affirms your identity.

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“It gives you the courage to keep moving forward and living your life as your most authentic self,” McLean said.

Zille’s comment on pronouns drew criticism in light of her attending Cape Town Pride on Saturday, alongside DA leader, John Steenhuisen, where they were marching “with DA LGBTQIA members to raise awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues, and campaign for the freedoms that will allow everybody to live their lives on a genuinely equal footing”.

Twitter reactions to her comment on pronouns have ranged from confusion to anger, with many wondering why there was a need for the criticism in the first place.

Cape Argus

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