General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Has anybody proposed a set of genderless pronouns?

Asked by LostInParadise (25661points) March 1st, 2010

For those of us who try not to show gender bias in our speech and writing, it would be very helpful to have a neutral version of:
he, she
him, her
his, hers

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

42 Answers

suncatnin's avatar

Yes, there is xe, xyr, and xim (the spelling hasn’t been standardized, so you sometimes see xe, xir, and xem as well). Xe is pronounced “Zee”

hearkat's avatar

We discussed these in reference to a fellow Jelly and someone linked a Wikipedia page… I’ll try to find it…

Here it is

nikipedia's avatar

Been done. From the wikipedia:

Invented pronouns

Some groups and individuals have used non-standard pronouns, hoping they will become standard. Various proposals for such changes have been around since at least the 19th century. For example, abbreviated pronouns have been proposed: ‘e (for he or she) or ‘s (for his/hers); h’ (for him/her in object case); “zhe” (also “ze”), “zher(s)” (also “zer”), and “zhim” (also “mer”) for “he or she”, “his or her(s)”, and “him or her”, respectively; and ‘self (for himself/herself). The American Heritage Book of English Usage says of these efforts:

Like most efforts at language reform, these well-intended suggestions have been largely ignored by the general English-speaking public, and the project to supplement the English pronoun system has proved to be an ongoing exercise in futility. Pronouns are one of the most basic components of a language, and most speakers appear to have little interest in adopting invented ones. This may be because in most situations people can get by using the plural pronoun they or using other constructions that combine existing pronouns, such as he/she or ‘he or she’.[4]

missingbite's avatar

How PC are we going to get?

CMaz's avatar

I like:
he, she
him, her
his, hers

Or how about:

Example: That “vagina” is a beautiful boat.

sevenfourteen's avatar

individual? person? one? those are all pronouns aren’t they?

suncatnin's avatar

@missingbite (and others) For those who care about grammar, it can be useful to have gender neutral pronouns if you do not know the gender of the person of whom you are speaking. For example, in the preceding sentence, I could have said “It can be useful to have gender neutral pronouns if xe does not know the gender of the person of whom xe is speaking” to avoid an impersonal ‘you’ that assumes a quality that may or may not be correct. The other option would be an incorrect use of the word ‘they,’ which is plural but is often substituted for such cases of ambiguity.

davidbetterman's avatar

that person…those people

missingbite's avatar

@suncatnin I still think that PC has brought about the idea that it is impersonal to use the pronoun you. I didn’t see anything wrong with your, sorry xour, first sentence. I guess it takes all kinds, I just don’t get it.

Besides, if you (xou) don’t know the persons gender, isn’t it in fact impersonal? How personal can I be if I don’t know the persons gender?

morphail's avatar

We have one… they, their, them

tragiclikebowie's avatar

It’s not about being PC. It’s gender neutral, about recognizing the person rather than the gender. And some people don’t indentify with either gender, or they identify with the opposite gender but don’t want to or can’t get surgery. I personally would like them because I feel gender still has far too much influence over someone’s life direction and life decisions, ie., things they are forced into or kept away from specifically because of their physical anatomy.

@suncatnin However there still is the word “one”, as in, “It can be useful to have gender neutral pronouns if one does not know the gender of the person of whom one is speaking.”

PacificRimjob's avatar

Too busy doing things that are needed.

Humanity has flourished with the pronouns we already have.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@missingbite as PC as you need to be in order to talk about me, someone who’d appreciate gender neutral pronouns rather than female ones.
@LostInParadise I use hir to mean something like his/her and ze to mean something like he/she..and hirself to mean something like himself/herself.

syzygy2600's avatar

is this really necessary? Some people might appreciate gender neutral pronouns, but I’m sorry, that’s a very small percent of the population. I’m not going to start saying ‘xe’ on the off chance I might possibly offend someone.

suncatnin's avatar

@missingbite Other languages distinguish between a formal (impersonal) and a personal ‘you’ based on the degree of familiarity with the individual In Spanish, this would be tu versus Usted. There are even regional variations to that, as Spain and Argentina still use vosotros or vos as a personal plural you while other Spanish speaking countries tend to only use the more formal Ustedes as a plural you.

@tragiclikebowie The use of the word “one” sounds unnecessarily formal in certain contexts to me, and something that I use in formal academic writing but not necessarily day-to-day. That might just be my interpretation.

@PacificRimjob The English language used to have gender neutral pronouns up through Middle English (as noted in the Wiki article @hearkat and @nikipedia referenced). I would also argue that ‘humanity’ involves more than the English language and other languages do have gender-neutral pronouns, including Irish, Armenian, and Farsi.

@syzygy2600 Gender neutral pronouns are especially useful in online discussions when there are no indicators of a person’s chosen gender. By your username, I have no indication of whether you are a he or a she. I could say “they” but that is questionable grammar. If I use xe, I can avoid worrying about offending while still being able to avoid repeating “syzygy” every time I want to reference you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@syzygy2600 You don’t need to trouble yourself, that’s fine – but as long as I tell you to use it for me, is that so hard?

HTDC's avatar

@syzygy2600 Yes it is necessary because society focuses far too much on separating human beings by their gender. Sure it’s good to celebrate our differences, but individuals and society as a whole, treat the opposite sex as a whole different species. Why when referring to a person, do we go by their gender constantly? Does it really matter whether I have a penis or vagina?

CMaz's avatar

“Does it really matter whether I have a penis or vagina?”


CMaz's avatar

Because they work differently.

suncatnin's avatar

@ChazMaz But in most conversations, it doesn’t matter whether you have a penis, a vagina, both, or neither. The number of people for whom my personal bits matter in the grand scheme of things is very very small. Everyone else just makes assumptions about what they may be based on my personal presentation, icon, handle, interests, etc.

CMaz's avatar

“it doesn’t matter whether you have a penis, a vagina, both, or neither. ”

It does not and should not matter. So who cares. I I refer to you as a “he” and you correct me by saying that you are a “she” then all is good. How could it possibly offend you. Unless you have an agenda or have “issues.”
If you want to be refereed to as a xe, xir, or xem. I still wont know. Honestly if the subject comes up. I would like to know. Because weather you like it or not.

Men and women ARE different. Here we go…

HTDC's avatar

@ChazMaz Sure. But if you need to know someone’s gender before making a judgement on that person’s opinion, that would be discriminating. There are some exceptions, but generally a person’s gender should not determine the validity of their thoughts and opinions.

“Men and women are different.”

I think we’ve all established that, but do we need constant reminding of it? In the media, in our culture, it’s as if you are female or male first then you are an individual human being. The latter should come first.

suncatnin's avatar

@ChazMaz But if you used “xe” to begin with, I wouldn’t have to correct you, which can keep the conversation on track rather than being derailed by pronoun confusion.

Similarly, I prefer “member of Congress” rather than “Congressman” or “Congresswoman” and just “chair” instead of “chairman” or “chairwoman.” The gender of the person does not have relevance to the position being held, and if it does, then a descriptor can be added as needed.

missingbite's avatar

@HTDC Sure you need to know the persons gender to make a judgement on a persons opinion. I would like to think my opinion about the pain involved during childbirth would be given less credit since I am a male and have no idea about the pain involved.

HTDC's avatar

@missingbite That’s why I say there are some exceptions…But say I give you my opinion on global warming or the way in which a government handles the issue of censorship. Does it matter what sex I am?

CMaz's avatar

“that would be discriminating.”
No it would be a mistake.

“but generally a person’s gender should not determine the validity of their thoughts and opinions.”
Do not like you baiting with the word “validity”. It is not about validity. It is about understand better where that person is coming from.

“but do we need constant reminding of that?”
Do not see a problem with that. Constant reminding of who I am? I know every time I take a piss. Does not piss me off.

“The latter should come first.”
It always does. It is always about respect. Not the political kind. At least for me you are a person first. Lets muck up the language again and we might never get it right.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz I think you are very limited in that you think your situation and your comfort with your penis and whatever else applies to everyone else. This isn’t about men or women or the difference you applaud – this is about people, like me (but I guess you’d say I have ‘issues’, thanks a bunch) who don’t care to be associated with either gender (though I have a vagina, but really what does it matter? It doesn’t to me) and would like you to use a gender neutral pronoun. This is not a situation where your gender identity matters, it’s where mine does, don’t you see?

CMaz's avatar

“This is not a situation where your gender identity matters, it’s where mine does, don’t you see?”

Yes I do. So it is a personal problem that you want me to conform to? That’s not fair.

I respect what you have to say. I respect how you wish to live. But I do not see a reason why I have to change the language to pacify your lifestyle.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz I am not asking you to conform – I am asking you to not conform me. and I don’t have a problem

CMaz's avatar

“I am asking you to not conform me.”

I am not. You are doing it to yourself. I just have to get the powered sugar out?

missingbite's avatar

@HTDC You are correct. I read your post very quickly and missed the exceptions part.

CMaz's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I have a great deal of respect for you. Really!

These are one of those thing we will not see eye to eye. At least not today. ;-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz I am sorry but you make no sense. I am not doing anything to myself when I walk around and people put on me norms applied to women in their conversation and actions. When I am at home, with my partner or with my friends, shit like ‘women are like that you know…or guys are so xyz’ doesn’t come up, I feel good, comfortable. It is only when I go out into society (where you conform to what you’ve been socialized) that I have to face people who are ignorant and it matters not to them that someone might actually not care to be generalized about.

CMaz's avatar

Well, the world is a bigger place then your living room.
Just because it works for you at home does not mean it works.

“I am sorry but you make no sense.”
As you do not to me. ;-)

“I am not doing anything to myself”
So you have a target on your back? We are all singling you out?
I do not have these problems.

“I have to face people who are ignorant”
Maybe you should stop seeing them that way.

“and it matters not to them that someone might actually not care to be generalized about.”
That brings us right back to a YOU issue.

But I will say this. You are smart, creative and passionate. Your man is a lucky guy.
And, whether or not you like it described this way. It is the way I am wired to say it and see it.
You are a very beautiful woman and person. Do not get too offended as to what I say.
It is the process I go through in order to learn.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz Actually, that’s exactly what it means – what works for me in terms of my gender identity (which is a personal thing) is exactly what’s best for me. Clearly you have a gender identity that is more accepted and that’s why you can’t relate to what I’m saying. And people are ignorant, especially after they’ve been informed of my preference and don’t care to think outside the box – this is fine, by me, most of the time, because I interact (in a deep, meaninful way) with only those who don’t care for such binaries (whether or not they themselves are part of one). And of course it’s my issue, we all have issues that are important to us. This one is important to me. But as I always say, if you cared to be (and you don’t have to, please go on referring to me as a woman, clearly this is all about what you see fit) my friend or love or what have you, you simply wouldn’t care to use the term woman for me because I said it doesn’t fit. And I am not offended that you think I am beautiful. I just don’t get why your gender identity has to have anything to do with mine. I am not telling you to stop referring to yourself as a man or to refer to people who feel like they’re men and women as men and women – I am just telling you it doesn’t fit ME and if you don’t see why it hurts, then that’s your problem. What’s the point of trying to convince me that I am a woman when I’m telling you that though I was born with female ‘parts’, so to speak, all else applied to women doesn’t apply to me.

CMaz's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – We can leave it at that. I give you a GA. :-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz oh goodie, a GA and a smilie – problem solved!

Christian95's avatar

I don’t see why showing your gender is a problem
I though that we learned long ago that gender doesn’t separates us
Except female and male have different sexual organs but except that we can think the same no matter what our gender is(I think Fluther is about thinking not physical)

Jeruba's avatar

Many solutions beyond those that already exist in the language have been proposed, going back decades. None of them has ever caught on, and they are all so awkwardly (gaggingly) contrived that I doubt they ever will.

I expect this little problem to disappear in the next 50 to 100 years, but we won’t see it.

LostInParadise's avatar

I would find genderless pronouns to be particularly useful for talking about hypothetical situations, the kind of discussions that might begin “if someone…” or “when someone..”

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