Should there be a gender-neutral pronoun?

Peri Mendelsohn (TC)'s picture

Correctly using someone's personal pronoun is one of the most basic ways to demonstrate your respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to as the wrong pronoun, this can be extremely offensive and hurtful. Personal gender pronouns (PGP's) are pronouns that one may use to describe themself and encompass pronouns like "he," "she," "his," and "hers." For transgender individuals, this is a very sensitive topic, and using a pronoun that does not match a transgender individuals' PGP can be viewed as oppressive.

I recently read an article about how Chicago public schools are forcing students to use requested transgender pronouns, and if they fail to do so, they should face serious punishment. This policy also enables these students to use whichever restroom or locker room they please, as long as they identify with that gender. Lastly, these schools' faculty and staff cannot inform a student's parents about their new gender identity without their permission.

To remedy this pronoun discrepency issue, the idea of creating a gender-neutral pronoun has been explored. Many have expressed a need for a singlular gender-neutral pronoun for those who don't identify with "she" or "he." In other words, many have expressed a need for a pronoun that can be used when one's gender is unknown and/or if one is neither male nor female.

One issue with this idea is that there could potentially be a lack of unity and organization amongst supporters. Transgender individuals may not find a pronoun they like/identify with. More generally, the need for a gender-neutral pronoun might not overcome the barrier of language limits as a new pronoun may not become universalized. 

Questions for Discussion:

  • Do you think the English language needs a gender-neutral pronoun? 
  • What other issues do you anticipate should a gender-neutral pronoun be created?
  • What would the implementation/enforcement process for a gender-neutral pronoun look like? Is this something that you think would be welcomed or neglected by society?
  • What do you think about the policies that these Chicago public schools have enacted? Are there certain parts of the policy that resonate with you? Contrarily, are there parts of this policy (or all of it altogether) that take things too far?

I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts!