This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Nuts and Bolts: some queer pronouns

The Equality Act of 2010, which affects England, Scotland and Wales, contains this clause:

'A child has protected characteristics of gender reassignment as soon as they make their intention known to someone whether that is at school, at home or elsewhere.'

Note the use of the singular they meaning he-or-she. I'm pretty sure this isn't a mistake, but an attempt to avoid assigning to anyone what they call gender but is actually sex.

Is using they the best way to go about this? 

Well, the Boarding Schools Association has come up with various suggestions for genderqueer (neither completely male nor female) and pansexual (attracted to all sorts) people.

One suggestion is for single-sex schools to use, for example, students instead of girls; but another has been to introduce a new set of pronouns for genderqueer and pansexual people.

Here they are:

Zie is laughing
I called zir/zem
Zir/zes eyes gleam
That is zirs/zes.
Zie likes zirself/zemself

(I'm confused by the last one: if zemself is a plural, which I assume it is, then surely it should be zemselves?)

Official attempts to change language tend not to be very successful nor to last very long, but this seems a fair attempt at solving a problem.

The main trouble now, as far as I can see it, is going to be working out about whom it's kind to use the new words.

Word To Consider Using Today: a gender neutral pronoun. They, for instance. This word appeared in Middle English and came from the Old Norse their.

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