Dear Queer: Yik Yak

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Mollie Whuppie /// Staff Writer

Dear Queer,

Yik Yak has been blowing up with conversations about gender! How do I know what information is trustworthy and what isn’t?

Sincerely,

Yik-Yakivist

Dear Yaktivist,

Yik Yak can be a lot of fun. I think the only big problem with it is that the anonymous aspect opens the door to a lot of misinformation. If you’re referring to the yaks about pronouns and trans people, I’m glad you read them with a critical eye.

For those who don’t know, Yik Yak is a social media app akin to Twitter, with a little bit of a Tinder twist. Users can post statuses to a timeline that is shared with only their geographic area, meaning that someone logging on in Alder Hall will see posts from the rest of campus and the hill (including Riverdale High!) Users can comment and vote on posts, and posts will be removed if they are voted down too many times.

While reading inside jokes and amusing secrets makes for a fun time, Yik Yak also became a platform for conversations at LC about trans and non-binary people a couple of weeks ago. Users were comparing being trans to being vegan and saying trans people should tell everyone their pronouns, as well as other things that, when paired with anonymity, create a lot of confusion.

To start off, let’s unpack the idea of pronouns. Pronouns include he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/zer, etc. People generally choose pronouns to give an indication of their gender identity. They are not a choice, they are not “preferred,” and they are not negotiable.

They are the means by which people describe themselves. There have been arguments by academics that say that they/their pronouns are too grammatically incorrect to be used, and that they create confusion. I think most people would agree that, as a convention, we use they/their pronouns to refer to individuals all of the time.

Person 1: “I was talking to my friend about you”

Person 2: “What did they say?”

We don’t assume pronouns of people we’ve never heard of, so why do we assume pronouns of those we meet?

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of asking people about their pronouns and instead advocate for trans and non-binary people to present their pronouns themselves. This might be convenient for cis people (who identify with their assigned-at-birth gender), but think about how it might make the other person feel.

Asking shows respect and care, and tells the person you are talking to that their feelings and comfort are important to you. Some Yik Yakers have argued that asking a person for their pronouns could make them feel as if they are not passing, and that they’re only being asked because they “look trans/non-binary.” This isn’t really the case, and wouldn’t be a problem if everyone asked each other their pronouns upon meeting regardless of how they present.

It would be a shift in social convention for some people, but it’s already beginning to happen in classes and at events on campus.

Your Queer,

Mollie Whuppie & Friends

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