Why English Needs a Gender-Neutral Pronoun
The spoken English language contains a wide variety of words, but it lacks a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun.
This means that people who do not identify as either gender must use pronouns that they feel uncomfortable with, or they can use the pronouns “they/them,” which may sound awkward because those pronouns more often imply plurality.
A gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun would be useful because it would allow people to be more respectful to those individuals who wish not to be addressed with gendered pronouns.
On campus, both students and members of the faculty already recognize this issue.
“I think the respect for the individual, or the student, or the college, or whoever it is has to be paramount,” English and gender studies professor Alison Tracy Hale said. “We are in a time of tremendous flux with respect to gender and identity.”
Currently, “they/them” is the go-to pronoun for gender-neutral individuals on the University campus. It serves as a working solution; however, other options do exist.
“There are already so many gender neutral pronouns,” sohpomore Rory Jacobs, who uses “they/them,” said.
“All you have to do is look up ‘gender neutral pronouns’ on Google,” Jacobs said. “Basically, people are just creating new pronouns to make themselves feel more comfortable.”
The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog, found at http://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com/, has published a list of gender-neutral pronouns.
On that list can be found “ze/hir.” In fact, the list includes alternatives for “his/hers,” and “himself/herself” too. They are as follows: “zirs” and “zirself.”
Based on the comprehensiveness of this list, it becomes clear that the issue at hand is not of one creating the gender-neutral singular third person pronoun, but one of popularizing already-existing ones.
Although nobody should force students who really do prefer “they/them” to use alternatives like “ne/nem,” it would be much more polite to make the option available.
For instance, a respectful way for students and faculty members to broche the subject would be by asking the question “which pronouns do you use?”
In response, an individual could answer with “they/them,” “ze/hir” or any other set of pronouns.
Using “ze/hir” would also replace “he/she” as a functional unit. For example, the sentence “if someone reads a lot, then he/she will develop a larger vocabulary” could become “if someone reads a lot, then ze will develop a larger vocabulary.”
Even though the social aspect of the gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun is more important to consider, this efficiency benefit should not be overlooked.
Certainly, it would be a way to help people become more familiar with the new pronouns and thus more likely to use them.
“Ze/hir” should not replace “she/he” as separate pronouns. Instead, it should be added to the already existing pronouns.
Although implementing these new pronouns will not be easy, it is still important to pursue because respect for peers makes the campus a better place.