Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gender-Neutral Pronouns at U.T.

The University of Tennessee Office for Diversity and Inclusion recently asked people to use gender-neutral pronouns such as "xe," "xym" and "xyr."  The reason is that not all people think of themselves as "male" or "female," and identify themselves in a different fashion if they are transgender. This proposal was to suggest alternatives for the sex-specific third-person pronouns he, she, him, and her. These suggested alternatives "xe," "xym," and "xyr" are pronounced like "zee," "zim," and "zeer."

Immediately local State Representatives such as Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) and Se, Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) took issue immediately with this proposal.

My first response was to scoff, thinking it's a hair-brained idea originating in the adminisphere from people who have too little to do with their time. However, the wording of the article said that the Office for Diversity and Inclusion asked!  Therefore, my thoughts on it changed.

In other words, it was a suggestion, not an order. Telling university students and professors what to do as a losing possibility, much like herding cats. What is likely is that some will follow the suggestion; while others, for whatever their reasons might be, will not. By making a request, and not a ukase, it stops it from being a top-down mandate on language. In general, bottom-up usage is more likely to take hold.

Anyway, instructors were asked to learn students' names and pronoun preferences during the first few meetings of a class.

This sounds like a good alternative; given that some students are transgender an may have a difficult life because of it. However many transgender people are around, they don't need another mortification. Therefore, give the students or others the option.