Dr. Peterson, a professor at UFT has recently come under fire for refusing to use gender neutral pronouns. Although he supports preferred pronouns for MTF and FTM individuals who fit within the two gender binary, he refuses to use they/them for those who identify as non-binary.
He has found some support in those who believe that non-binary identities are not rooted in scientific fact and are a new artificial concept and his right to free speech. Non-binary identities have existed for centuries such as the fa’fafine, hijra, two-spirit, etc. and gender neutral singular pronouns exist in numerous other languages. As well, intersex individuals making up 0.5% of the population (aprox. 170,000 Canadians) and are biologically born with both male and female sex characteristics. Although many intersex people identify as male or female, certain individuals do not identify as either and often go by gender neutral pronouns.
Another issue is that individuals on both sides do not truly grasp that freedom of speech is not freedom of repercussions of one’s speech. Freedom of speech extends to the government not arresting one for what they say; however, with the exception being hate speech that incites violence. Dr. Peterson should not be arrested for his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns; however, he is not shielded from the consequences. It is within his rights to disagree with Bill C 16 as well it is within the rights of others to petition for his suspension and organize protests.
Additionally, as a professor, whether or not he disagrees with non-binary identities, out of respect he should still use everyone’s preferred pronouns. A professor should not allow their personal beliefs to interfere with learning; an atheist professor should still respect the beliefs of a religious student even if they do not believe in God.
There is a time and place for debate and discussions about non-binary identities and gender neutral pronouns; however, this is best suited for outside the classroom with willing participants rather than students just focused on getting an education.