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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Gender Neutral Pronouns?

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Author Topic: Gender Neutral Pronouns?
Sugars
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So I was on a *coff* certain site, when I stumbled across a (beautiful amazing makes-my-jaw-drop) model named Jack. Though Jack has the physical traits of a female, his gender is, as he writes it, "Transgenderqueer boydyke-- gender-neutral (or at least masculine) pronouns, please! It's not just political, it's my reality." (if these kind of words are not okay to quote, I will edit them out immediately. I just wanted you to have the idea of how he describes himself)

The gender neutral pronouns bit caught my eye. Are there any gender neutral pronouns we can use in everyday life? Obviously, I've fallen back on masculine pronoun when talking about Jack, because I just can't think of any. I'm one of those crazies who thinks we would be better off without gendered pronouns, primarily because you cannot know someone's gender just by looking at them, and I’d love to have a gender neutral pronoun to use. I mean, there's "it," but that has a very disrespectful connotation, and "them," implies you are talking about more than one person.

Can anyone think of any more gender neutral pronouns? If not, it's time we made some up!

[ 09-15-2008, 02:36 AM: Message edited by: Sugars ]

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Heather
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Well, them and they can be used as singular gender-neutral pronouns and often are. I know in writing my book, I leaned on them a lot. You also can skip using a pronoun altogether and just refer to a person by their name. How you structure your language also make a difference: you can leave pronouns out of the equation pretty often just by restructuring.

For instance, rather than,
quote:
Though Jack has the physical traits of a female, his gender is, as he writes it
You might say, "Despite having physically female traits, Jack gender-identifies as..."

I also had a conundrum about wanting to really just use something like zie or zir, but knew it would basically be a very tough adjustment for a lot of readers and make it tough for them not to be distracted by that and lose retention of the material at hand. I already took a leap by not using the word "penetration," and didn't want to push my luck. However, I think in everyday speech, if we so go ahead and use some of the new ones, we can slowly get them more normalized.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Djuna
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There are constructs too, like 's/he', 'xe' and 'hirs', but they too sound a little forced. S/he almost sounds disrespectful to use for someone who is transgender, to my thinking anyway.

Names and restructuring the sentence both work very well, but I guess at some point you're going to have to use a pronoun. There's nothing wrong particularly with 'they' or 'them', from a grammatical point of view anyway - I really like using those, especially for general writing like in Heather's book.

The fact that all three of us have slightly different opinions speaks volumes to me: fact is, people who are transgender are really no different to people who aren't in that sense. They'll have a variety of opinions. So in writing about a person who was transgender, I'd personally think it courteous to just say, "Pardon my ignorance, but which pronoun would you prefer me to use?"

EDIT: I read up on this a little - turns out there were two widely-used neutral pronouns in Middle English, "ou" and "a".

[ 09-15-2008, 07:42 PM: Message edited by: patrickvienna ]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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paper towel
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"There's nothing wrong particularly with 'they' or 'them', from a grammatical point of view anyway"

Actually, I'd like to point out that while people use "they" and "them" for single persons, it is, strictly speaking, grammatically incorrect. Should it be changed to match the tmes? Probably.

I use they/them because I think zie and hir are ridiculous. I mean, people that use zie and hir already face so much prejudice, and using new, fancy words with letters like "z" and "x" are just going to make close-minded people even more scared.

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-Lauren-
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This is one of the things that make my learning Finnish seem worth it; there is a lack of "he" or "she", the person in question is referred to either as "hän" or the person's name. [Smile]

I wish English had something like that.

[ 10-19-2008, 11:35 PM: Message edited by: *Lauren* ]

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Nailo
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As a continuation of Lauren's post, French has "on", but that has a more general connotation, like saying "one" in English. I wish I could say Spanish had something similar, but alas, English is actually more gender neutral than Spanish is!

(Btw... I've seen Jack too. I was a bit taken aback the first time I saw him, but then I thought he was beautiful).

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"Love does not make itself in the desire for copulation, but in the desire for shared sleep." - The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

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