Friday, March 4, 2011

Some gender neutral pronouns to consider

So, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, gender neutral pronouns are tough to implement and use. This is partially because they are clunky and not well explained and partially because the queer community cannot agree on one set of gender neutral pronouns to use. Everyone likes a different set for different reasons.

For a while, I was liking "co" as a gender neutral pronoun because it's pretty user friendly and it works easily. However, as I continue to ruminate over the problems with pronouns I was made aware of the fact that "co" is a secondary term. Co-worker, co-president, co-operation, blank and co. There is no personhood with this term. Just a thought.

The other night at the pub, my friends and I were talking about this problem. My friend Jason is basically fluent in Latin, and he conjugated ze for us. It has become user friendly. We did it with some variation from the traditional ze/hir pronoun set but it would work both ways. I'll explain it with ze/hir.

pronoun usage 101:

If you would use she/he, use ze
If you would use her/him, use hir
If you would use hers/his, use either ze's or hir's

Easy, right? The variation we used at the pub goes like this:

If you would use she/he, use ze
If you would use hers/his, use zir
If you would use her/him, use zim or zer.

What I like about this is that zir does not sound like any other words in the English language the way the that hir when pronounced the way I know how sounds like "here". What I don't like is that for him/her the pronouns still follow the gendered pronouns, just with a z instead of an h. I can see using zir for this instance, just like in the example with ze/hir.

It still needs some work, and let's be honest, not everyone will agree with me but it's beginning to make more sense to me. What do you think?


  1. I do like ze, although I appreciate what our classmate brought up about this system still reflecting a gender binary. His thoughts that gender neutral pronouns should reflect something new entirely were apt. I look forward to the pronoun workshop, with coloured name tags!

  2. I personally dislike zie/ze/zir, mainly because it feels jarring to read in a block of text - as you said, it doesn't sound like any other word in the language. Instead it jumps out as if it's saying, 'look at me, I'm a modern made-up word with a Z! Or an x, sometimes! I'm really cool!'
    It's a word to derail a train of thought.

    One set of terms I came across in the mid-nineties was sie/hir.
    Where you would use he/she, use sie.
    Where you would use him/her, use hir.
    Where you would use his/hers, use hirs.

    It's not perfect, but it's less jarring and it reads as a combination of the better-known pronouns, so there's something.

  3. i hadn't heard those before, thank you!