What The Heck is Ze: How & Why US Unis Use Non-Binary Pronouns

4 years ago



Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee is on the edge of progress with its gender-neutral form of address that has just appeared on its student portal. If you don’t really follow, here’s an update on the gender neutrality concept.

Term ‘gender neutral’ is a classification of an individual that doesn’t feel like they belong to a specific gender. Gender-neutralism is based on the idea that language, policies, and other social institutions should not discriminate people looking/feeling incompatible with their sex/gender.  

Vanderbilt University has announced the new gender-neutral form of address “ze” that students can use in the event they don’t identify with “he” or “she.” The student services portal “YES” attributed to the university now allows students to select from a range of pronouns if they want to be addressed in a certain way by university professors and staff.

It is expected that the pronouns will show up next to student names on “class rolls and housing rosters, be visible to advisers and other offices in regular contact with students, and will be accessible by faculty and staff, including student employees.”

Non Binary Pronouns: International Experience

Different non-binary pronouns are used across the globe as a derivative from the pronoun “they.” According to the NY Times, “Ze” is one of the most popular forms of pronouns used in US universities. However, there are other forms like “E” offered to new students at Harvard. American University uses ”ey” as one of pronoun options published in a student guide alongside the instruction on how to ask which one should be used.

In Sweden, there are other forms of gender-neutral pronouns like “hir,” “xe” and “hen.” Also, there are “ve,” and “ne,” and “per,” for person, “thon,” and “Mx.” (as the honorific form pronounced “mix”). Mx. has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the forms of address similar to Mr. and Ms.

In 2014, the Time published an explanation of all 50 custom options for gender available to newly-registered users. Misgendering an individual is a serious social issue, so adopting the non-binary forms is a progressive step for many universities.

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Any questions or propositions?