Respecting someone’s memory includes respecting their entire identity.
Summer, like many nonbinary people, used “they” pronouns. Respecting their life fully includes respecting that fact. Many sources (such as the two I provided) properly do so. Many do not.
I have been following discussions of their passing, and the violent way in which they were murdered, and I have been disappointed and disgusted in the way that they, and by extension all nonbinary people, are being treated.
These are not conservative sites: Out Magazine. LGBTQ Nation. Shaun King. On each of these discussion boards, there are people (including King himself) who have been misgendering Summer.
On each of these, in the comments section, there are people mocking the very notion of a nonbinary identity, calling it things like “insane BS.” One person insisted that “they” is “reserved” for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder and that other people shouldn’t be using it.
Shaun King’s original post used “she” pronouns and referred to Summer as a woman. When he was called on it in his comments section, he rewrote the post, not to correct their pronouns, but to get rid of them entirely:
This is transphobic behavior. It illustrates a deep level of discomfort with using proper pronouns, instead seeking a “compromise” position of avoiding them entirely. (Incidentally, there are nonbinary people who do not go by pronouns at all. Respect them, too.)
Many of the accusations being leveled at nonbinary people, both in these discussions and elsewhere, are the same that were once leveled at gay people, and later at binary transgender people: We’re mentally ill. We’re deluded. We’re living in a fantasy land and denying science. (The American Psychological Association, for its part, does not consider nonbinary people “mentally ill.”)
And the sad irony is that many of these accusations are being leveled at nonbinary people by gay and binary transgender people. Even in death.
Yes, language use, including pronouns, can be a very difficult habit to change. I struggle with it myself. I’ve misgendered (and corrected) Summer’s pronouns twice while writing this very article.
But it’s important. It’s part of their identity.
If you can’t give Summer Taylor, who was brutally murdered, the basic decency to refer to them properly, then you can’t claim (as so many have) to be properly honoring their memory.
Summer died supporting the cause of the lives of marginalized people, and yet in death they themself are being further marginalized, their death even mocked, because of their own identity.