With the advent of a transgender alternative, English speakers find themselves in a grammatical conundrum. When pronouns like “he” and
With the advent of a transgender alternative, English speakers find themselves in a grammatical conundrum. When pronouns like “he” and “her” no longer suffice, a person can only shy warily away from the shudder-inducing “it” and mumble inaudibly. Has political correctness finally exhausted the capacities of the English language?
Wesleyan University has turned to a gender-neutral alternative: “ze.”
“Students use it to refer to people who have requested it as their pronoun,” Zach Strassburger, a member of the Weseleyan Trans/Gender Group, wrote in an e-mail. “They are mostly but not entirely students who identify as trans or gender-variant in some way.”
The term first gained widespread recognition this fall, when the Trans/Gender Group sent each professor information packets about using the gender-neutral pronoun.
“Some Wesleyan professors are comfortable with the term; others are not,” Strassburger wrote. “In my experience, when we introduce ourselves for various groups like sports teams or classes, naming your pronoun is as common as naming your class year. I hear and use ‘ze’ and its possessive companion ‘hir’ multiple times a day.” Learning the dynamics of “ze” is also a part of First-Year Orientation.
Harvard students probably won’t hear “ze” on FOP, but they might encounter it later. “People that are either queer or educated on this topic use it pretty widely,” said Noa Grayevsky ’07, community chair of Harvard’s BGLTSA.
Wesleyan student Genevieve R. Angelson says “ze” isn’t exactly ubiquitous there either. “It is more frequently invoked with irony.”
Or so ze says.