Who? Or What? Word Choice Matters!

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3 Responses

  1. Marcy says:

    Yep, it all makes sense. And Yep, I love and respect WHO you are. Keep it up Jo, you are adding a quality to my life that I can’t even explain. <3

  2. Jon says:

    In the use of who vs what I see them both having important roles in communication. I see who we are as what defines us as a person. Most people would respond with their name, characteristics, their family, etc… The what are all descriptors that are used to index us. Man, Female, Trans, Black, White, Short, Tall, fat, skinny, etc… I see all of those the same. To say something is who you are is to say that defines your very being. Putting this in perspective of race, if I say I am black man is who I am, then I am saying my race and gender define me. Personally, I feel it is my actions, choices, and characteristics that define me. I would never say my race is who I am, because how can i be defined by something I could not choose? My gender is very similar as I wouldn’t say “I am a manly man.”

    So I am trying to clarify. Is your use of who intended to show what you feel defines you? Or… does bringing Gender Identification into the picture change the formula? Identification is definitely a personal perspective, and as such could definitely define you. It is just very unclear given my own perspective. (This is also putting society aside)

    • Jo says:

      Jon, you always have a way of making me think. I’ve been reading/rereading and perplexing over your comment since I read it around 9:15p at work. I hope I understand your comment well enough to properly respond to it. So here goes.

      What has an equal place in society without a doubt. I’m not at all saying that what has no value. However when a “what” describes you, you have fallen into the trap of one singular thing being your definition. The idea of a what definition is that it is the SINGLE thing that best describes this is the kind of question you get asked on forms. “what is your sex.. Male or Female?” This is when someone doesn’t really care about you but needs some information about you. Who is more in-depth. Who, to me at least, implies that want to know you to be able to interact with you in the future. Please see some examples below.

      If someone came up to me and asked “What are you?” (Most people would not ask such a question) I would say whatever one word answer I felt BEST described me, as of right now that is transgender. I would respond with I am a transgender person. Last year around this time I would have said “I am a Computer Technician.” The reason I choose THAT is because of right now I fit the most stereotypes of that answer. The goal is to give as much accurate information in as short of an answer as possible. This of course leads to inaccurate information. Most computer technicians and techies, for instance, are not seen as good teachers, but I am seen that way. This is not how I would define myself in my heart. I’m not by any means letting it define me, but I can tell this person doesn’t REALLY care about me and just needs to know something about me for some reason or another. The most common what are you question is “What is your name?” Every form you fill out is what question after what question. Very few actually try to get to know and understand you. The what questions drive society.

      If someone came up and asked me “Who are you?” I would probably say something to the effect of: “I am a unique person who is just starting to see the true colors of life. I am struggling to figure out who I am in many ways but I do know that I am a person who enjoys helping others and will greatly inconvenience myself to do so. I am a caring gentile person who gets emotional when things are not being approached or solved in an efficient way or someone is being mistreated. I love being with my family and friends. Nothing gives me more joy then to see the moment on someone’s face when a struggle of theirs has ended. I love to teach people new things and experience the moments where everything clicks. I love telling stories and writing. I have skills with technology, games, and writing among other things. I enjoy fixing problems. I love sitting around a table playing games with my best friends. I enjoy looking and feeling nice. I am a person who has a large mismatch between how I see myself and how the people around me and society as a whole see me.” As you can see it’s a much longer answer, but it is a better definition of who I am than “Transgender” Where the what questions drive society the who questions drive people. There is very little in there about age, race, gender, etc. In fact the only things that would lead me to believe that I was transgender in any way are the very beginning and very end.

      A society, and the people within it, cannot live just on the surface level on just the surface level what questions or the deeper who questions. Neither is any less or more valid than the other. Society cannot survive getting to know anyone THAT well and a person without who questions has no identity. They don’t even know who they are…

      To cycle back to the song: He’s trying to express himself in who he’s trying to give himself an identity, but it’s trapped by society and the fact that it only looks at people at a surface level. Society and the news will always attempt to classify people, by age, race, creed, gender it doesn’t matter. If each person is their own person if each person has their own identity society cannot handle it. It cannot draw conclusions about other people it cannot predict events.

      What and Who absolutely both have a purpose. What is used to interact with society. Who is used to define yourself. The problem comes in when society pushes so much burden onto you that whatever you are to society because your ONLY identity. Which is what I fear happens to most transgender people.

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