UT, having educated entire state, adopts gender-neutral pronouns

tennessee pronouns

One of the ways I measure the increasing absurdity of American society is when peculiar trends that begin in areas such as the California coast and New York City make their way to the South and Midwest.

Thus, it was with a twinge of sadness that I read this morning that the University of Tennessee is urging staff and students to stop referring to each other with gender-specific pronouns such as “hers” and “his” and instead use terms like “xyr” and “zirs.”

As part of an effort “to create a more inclusive campus,” the Knoxville-based university has adopted gender-neutral pronouns and outlined how to use them in a comprehensive guide.

The new words include “ze” and “xe” for subjects, “hir”, “zir” and “xem” for objects and “hirs”, “zirs” and “xyr” for pronouns.

Donna Braquet, the director of the university’s Pride Center for diversity and inclusion, said the new language would make the campus a more “welcoming and inclusive” place for people who did not identify with traditional genders.

“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new,” she said. “The ‘she’ and ‘he’ pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ‘ze’ when growing up.”

Some thoughts:

  • Yes, if we had been taught “ze” and “xe” when growing up, then “she” and “he” would sound strange, but isn’t the University of Tennessee simply substituting one pronoun for another, even if the latter is new?
  • What is the real point of this exercise? If I call someone the wrong name, for example, they correct me and we move on. If one is addressed by the wrong pronoun, isn’t it easier to be corrected than to come up with an entire new set of bizarre-looking words?
  • I can imagine University of Tennessee students and their parents will be quite pleased by tuition hikes when they learn about how much university time was spent developing a “comprehensive guide” on gender-neutral nouns.
  • Finally, it’s Tennessee, for goodness sake. Everyone can be referred to as “Hey, there” (singular) and “Hey, y’all” (plural). I say this as someone who lives in the South and uses these terms regularly.

I’m not going to pretend to speak for the LGBT community, but it would seem as though some folks at the University of Tennessee had a solution in search of a problem, and perhaps a bit too much free time, and this is what they devised.

(Top: Chart show University of Tennessee’s new gender-neutral language. Source: University of Tennessee.)

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6 thoughts on “UT, having educated entire state, adopts gender-neutral pronouns

  1. Good grief….perhaps the University could claw back some of what this idea has cost them by sacking those who came up with it.

    When will it dawn on the politically correct that it’s not the word, it’s the way it is used which gives rise to offence.

    • I believe to many appearances mean a whole lot more than results. These folks can sit back and pat themselves on the back for having done “something,” no matter whether it has any impact, or whether it was even necessary in the first place.

  2. Every LGBTQ person I know would find the idea of gender-neutral pronouns laughable. I suspect its a case of non-LGBTQ folk trying to out-do each other on the equality-scale. Tokenism instead of changing hearts and minds.

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