My father-in-law is a smart and accomplished lady. Grandma M is a transgender woman who majored in physics at Columbia University and earned a black belt in karate. I choose to refer to Grandma M as a woman because, in my mind, she is a woman. Nobody forced me to think that. It’s a choice rooted in visual perception, familial respect, and love. But it seems that a certain political faction disagrees with this voluntary approach.

A few months ago, at Grandma M’s traditionalist dojo, a karate classmate—let’s call her “Xir-Says”—threw a tantrum over the politics of language. Xir-Says demanded to be referred to as “Xir-Says-San.”

Her sensei tried to explain that San is an honorific reserved for students who’d proved themselves worthy by demonstrating certain skills, that it was presumptuous for Xir-Says to make such a demand since she hadn’t earned it by demonstrating high-level expertise, and that students who hadn’t passed the San benchmark, like her, could be called either “Miss” or “Mister.” She didn’t care. Xir-Says insisted that being called “Miss,” or anybody being called “Miss” or “Mister,” was discriminatory and insulting to “intersex” and “gender non-binary people.”

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