Embrace the Sweet Meteor of Death. This is the world we live in. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has sent out a directive to its professors from their Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In order to not risk offending the infinitesimally small transgender population, they want your children to learn some exciting new words that will make communicating in English insanely confusing for everyone:
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 identity within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.
In the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns. This ensures you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students. The name a student uses may not be the one on the official roster, and the roster name may not be the same gender as the one the student now uses.
This practice works outside of the classroom as well. You can start meetings with requesting introductions that include names and pronouns, introduce yourself with your name and chosen pronouns, or when providing nametags, ask attendees to write in their name and pronouns.
We are familiar with the singular pronouns she, her, hers and he, him, his, but those are not the only singular pronouns. In fact, there are dozens of gender-neutral pronouns.
A few of the most common singular gender-neutral pronouns are they, them, their(used as singular), ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr.
These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she andhe pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.
Well there you have it. It only sounds weird to you because this is how the English language has worked for hundreds of years. Trust us, you’ll be saying Xe and Zir to refer to human beings of indeterminate (or multiple) genders in absolutely no time, and it won’t sound weird to you at all! After all, the Sweet Meteor of Death will hopefully render us unable to hear anything whatsoever.