Gender & Pronouns

Little Miss Mister

As feminists, we know gender is on a spectrum. We’re dynamic beings and trying to box ourselves off into male or female really isn’t helping anyone. I mean that’s a lot of pressure and who even wants to live up to those expectations anyways. It’s much more fun to just do everything you want without worrying if it makes you too masculine or too feminine.

But I must admit, as much as I believe this, it is very difficult for me to form my language around it. It’s so easy to associate pronouns with a person’s sex even though I know the meaning is closer linked to gender. So what can we do?

I’ve heard of someone who proudly identifies as an “it” – but that term feels like it sucks the life out of its subject. I don’t even refer to animals as it’s. More commonly, there’s the option of “they.” It’s grammatically incorrect, but it’s gender neutral. It tends to be my favorite for situations in which I’m trying to avoid gender…but I really just can’t get over that hankering for something that’s grammatically correct without imposing gender.

That’s where Wikipedia’s table of “Newly Invented Pronouns” comes in.

Newly invented pronouns
Elverson (1975)[45] Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes eirself
Spivak (1983)[46][47] E laughed I called Em Eir eyes gleam That is Eirs E likes Emself
Humanist[48] Hu laughed I called hum Hus eyes gleam That is hus Hu likes humself
Peh[49][50] Peh laughed I called pehm Peh’s eyes gleam That is peh’s Peh likes pehself
Per[51] Per laughed I called per Per eyes gleam That is pers Per likes perself
Thon[52] Thon laughed I called thon Thons eyes gleam That is thons Thon likes thonself
Jee, Jeir, Jem[53] Jee laughed I called jem Jeir eyes gleam That is jeirs Jee likes jemself
Ve[54] Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Xe[55] Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself
Ze (or zie or sie) and zir (Germanic Origin)[56] Ze laughed I called zir/zem Zir/Zes eyes gleam That is zirs/zes Ze likes zirself
Ze (or zie or sie) and hir[57] Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze and mer[58] Ze laughed I called mer Zer eyes gleam That is zers Ze likes zemself
Zhe, Zher, Zhim[59] Zhe laughed I called zhim Zher eyes gleam That is zhers Zhe likes zhimself

Any one of these words could be the solution to our problem. The only trouble is that hardly anyone would recognize them making it difficult to use them without adding an explanatory paragraph into your sentence; and by that point, is it even worth it?

To make any of these work, we’d have to limit the use to one…and probably get a celebrity on board. If one day, Ellen Degeneres started using Ze, the whole world would change. Regardless of how a person identifies, it would be much harder to impose any expectations and, on a larger scale, it would be much harder to have any stereotypes.