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Call me “ze”: U. of Tennessee campus pushes students to use “gender-neutral” pronouns

September 2, 2015

My lastest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

If it’s “gender-neutral,” how come it’s “hir” if you’re a woman but “zir” if you’re a man?

The University of Tennessee is encouraging students to use gender-neutral pronouns to help students feel more welcome as classes begin this month.

“The pronouns include ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, and xyr….

“’We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems,’ Donna Braquet, the Director of the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center, told WATE. ‘Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.'”

And according to a chart accompanying Braquet’s memo (on campus diversity office’s website), the pronouns “they, them, and “theirs,” even though they look gender-neutral, apparently aren’t. The chart suggests substituting “xe,” “xem,” and “xyrs.”


My prediction is that UT-Knoxville students will be twisting their tongues trying to figure out the pronunciation difference, for example, between “ze” (“he” and also “she”) and “xe” (“they”)–and also wondering why they should care. And get this: The object pronoun for “ze” is “hir” when the person’s a female, but “zir” when the person’s a male. How is that “gender-neutral”?

But Braquet assures us:

“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen


From → Uncategorized

  1. Some of those newly-coined pronouns would make really good Scrabble words.

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