The bewildering politics of gender pronouns

Stuff co.nz 4 July 2020
Family First Comment: “There are now many other options, including but not limited to: ze/zir/zir/zirs/zerself; ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself; ey/em/eir/eirs/emself; ve/ver/vis/vis/verself; ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself; xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself. Yes, there are more. Everyone should start learning ze above for zemselves because more workplaces – especially government workplaces – are asking staff to use them. For example, the State Services Commission – the government agency tasked with overseeing the State sector of New Zealand’s public service – has asked government employees to include their own gender pronouns in their email signatures.”

OPINION: Usually, email invitations to complete online surveys end up in the same folder as the emails from the Nigerian princes – the folder called Trash.

This time, however, I thought I’d complete an online survey because it related to a virtual conference I attended – one of the many consequences of Covid-19.

The survey questions and options for answers were standard until I got to the gender tick box.

Rather than just male or female, I was now presented with multiple options. I can’t remember exactly how many were listed, but perhaps it was about 10.

Yes, you read correctly – there were 10 or so gender options to choose from and one could select one or more of the options. Male and female is so 1990s – in 2020 you can be both or more.

Just as well this survey wasn’t from New Zealand because the list would have been even longer. For example, the Ministry of Health recognises the following transgender categories: aikāne, akava’ine, fa’afafine, faafatama, fakafifine, fakaleiti, gender diverse, genderqueer, māhū, non-binary, palopa, takatāpui, tangata ira tāne, trans, transsexual, vakasalewalewa and whakawahine.

Going back to the survey, logically following on from the gender tick box was the gender pronoun list of options. Gender pronouns are words used to refer to people, eg she/her, he/him, or they/them. However, just like the previous question, the number of gender pronouns to choose from was exhaustive.

Using the following example of he (subject pronoun) / him (object pronoun) / his (possessive adjective) / his (possessive pronoun) / himself (reflexive pronoun), there are now many other options, including but not limited to: ze/zir/zir/zirs/zerself; ze/hir/hir/hirs/hirself; ey/em/eir/eirs/emself; ve/ver/vis/vis/verself; ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself; xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself. Yes, there are more.

Everyone should start learning ze above for zemselves because more workplaces – especially government workplaces – are asking staff to use them. For example, the State Services Commission – the government agency tasked with overseeing the State sector of New Zealand’s public service – has asked government employees to include their own gender pronouns in their email signatures.

The Commission said that when “cisgender people include pronouns, it normalises it for everyone and protects trans and gender diverse people when they include their pronouns” and that having “pronouns in an email signature signals you as an LGBTQIA+ ally”.

More importantly, the commission says that if anyone suffers “negativity for using your pronouns in your workplace” they should report it to their team leader or HR department.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/opinion/300047913/the-bewildering-politics-of-gender-pronouns

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