“I am me and you are you, but soon we’ll be xem, xyr, and xe”
A new verbal political correctness is making its wending way from the University of Tennessee. Donna Braquet, Director of the University’s Pride Center is urging students to use gender-neutral pronouns when addressing their classmates.
She said, “We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems. Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity rather than the pronoun of those they were assigned at birth.”
I truly understand the need for diversity and am sympathetic to any trend that is more inclusive regarding students who are struggling with their identities. However, I guess I have been lost in the outdated male/female gender binary because I missed a statement made by Otto Jesperson in 1894: “It is, at times, a great inconvenience to be obliged to specify the sex of the person spoken about. If a personal pronoun of common gender was substituted for “he” in such a proposition as this: ‘It would be interesting if each of the leading poets would tell us what he considers his best work,’ ladies would be spared the disparaging implication that the leading poets were all men.”
The gender-neutral pronouns, xe, xem, and xyr are intended to correct that disparaging implication. Xe is equivalent to he, she, or it. Xem means his, her, or it. Xrs is his, hers, or its. And of course, there are the reflexive pronouns, xyrself and xemself for himself, herself, and itself. Got it?
As Ms. Braquet channels Orwell and his “newspeak,” she urges all university employees to adopt the use of the gender-neutral pronouns. Now, let’s rewrite that sentence so it is UT pc. As Ms. Braquet channels Orwell and xyrs newspeak, xe urges all university employees etc., etc., etc. So if you are a UT employee the question of whether to xe or not to xe may not be
Imagine you’re living in one of the dorms. Instead of saying, “he will bring his six pack to me,” you should say, “xe will bring xyr six pack to me.” Who knows, you may get lucky and xyr will turn out to be a curvaceous member of the synchronized swim team rather than your smells-like-gym-socks roommate.
Pronoun exchange is not the singular province of the Southeastern Conference. The Big Ten has gaily joined the PGPPC (preferred gender pronoun political correctness). Michigan State University provides guidelines for its gender-confused campus. Ze/zie/xe (all pronounced “zee,”) replace he/she/they.
Hir, pronounced “here,” replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.
Use of the PGPs began to infiltrate speech in the early 1990s with such books as Kate Bornstein’s “Gender Outlaws,” Riki Wilchin’s “Read Mt Lips,” and Leslie Feinberg’s “Stone Butch Blues.” The use of PGPs has been readily accepted on several college campuses along with initiatives to install gender-neutral bathrooms and the ability to change names and genders on official school records.
The gender fluid trend has reached the business world, too. Barney’s of New York featured trans fashion models in its eight-page spread for 2014. And the hallowed Oxford English Dictionary has added the gender-neutral title, Mx, to Miss, Ms., Mr., and Mrs.
Social media is also onboard. Facebook made it official last February when it told the world that limiting binary-gendered options is a thing of the past and added a third option to its standard male and female ones. From a drop-down menu, users can select from 58 different identities, including agender, androgyne, gender fluid, trans female, trans male, trans person, cisgender, and two-spirit. (Each term refers to a subtle variation of gender and sexual identity and expression.) For users who don’t fit into the 58 pre-populated list of gender identities, Facebook offers a 59th option: “fill in the blank.”
Sometimes it just seems that the animals have overtaken the zoo. Tennessee State Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, posted his opinion on Facebook. “It seems to me the biggest lack of diversity we have at the University of Tennessee is people of common sense.”
Imagine Lou Costello saying to Bud Abbott, “Tell me the name of the player on first.”
Abbott says, “Hir.”
Costello, “I know he’s here. What’s his name?”
Abbott, “Xyr’s name is hir.”
Costello, “Who’s xyr?
Abbott: “I just told you, xyr’s name is hir.”
Costello: “You’re telling me xyr’s on first!”
Abbott: “No. Xyr’s on second. Hir’s on first.”
You get the idea. I’m afraid things will never be the same. Life was so simple when President Roosevelt told us: “The only thing we have to fear is fear xemself.”
By Jerry Gervase