Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gender Neutral Pronouns: "Xe Didn't Like Xyr Look And Told Xem"

Can you understand the meaning of the title of this blog post? "Xe," "Xyr" and "Xem" are all proposed gender-neutral pronouns that can be used in place of "she/he," "hers/his" and "her/him." The school board in Vancouver, Canada has recently approved  a policy for the use of these pronouns in schools:
VANCOUVER -- Grammar teachers may need to amend their lesson plans after the Vancouver school board approved Monday a policy change that welcomes a brand-new string of pronouns into Vancouver public schools: “xe, xem, and xyr.”
The pronouns are touted as alternatives to he/she, him/her, and his/hers, and come as last-minute amendments to the board’s new policy aimed at better accommodating transgender students in schools.
The vote came after a brief debate that sparked unrest among opponents of the policy who shouted “dictator” and “liar” at trustees, as security guards and police officers watched from their posts at council doors. But supporters waved pink and blue-coloured flags and drowned out the detractors with their cheers once the policy passed. Three previous public meetings were similarly rowdy.
The vote may be the knockout blow in a bitter and protracted fight over the controversial plan to put gender-neutral washrooms in schools and support students in expressing their preferred gender identities.
What I find so interesting about this is that this pronoun scheme was invented in the early 1970s but is only now getting traction, according to the Business Insider
In 1789, William H. Marshall recorded the existence of the gender-neutral pronoun “ou.” “Ou will” meant “he will,” “she will,” or “it will,” according to Dennis Baron’s “Grammar and Gender.” “Ou” stems from the Middle English epicene “a,” used in the 14th century by writers for “he,” “she,” “it,” they,” and even “I.”
From there, Don Rickter is the most widely accepted inventor of “xe,” xem,” and “xyr” in 1973.
Another modern version of gender-neutral language are the Spivak pronouns. By dropping the “th” from “they,” “them, and “their,” mathematician Michael Spivak created “ey,” “em,” “eir,” widely used by LGBTQ advocates.
Would you be able to use these pronouns appropriately if the need arose? I think I could.

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