Intersexual/gender-neutral pronouns

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Dec 4 04:46:27 UTC 2007

>Is there a consensus today on a pronoun to use for someone who takes
>both (or neither sex), or for someone whose sex you don't know?

Well, the professional editors I know will rewrite or use "they" and
"them" judiciously. The singular "they" is increasingly accepted, to
the point that even many of the more prescriptivist members of the
Editors' Association of Canada (a group whose members are rather more
pragmatic than dogmatic in general) will countenance it in some
circumstances to avoid awkward locutions.

> says, "The two most popular
>seem to be 'sie, hir, hir, hirs, hirself', (especially 'hir'), and 'zie,
zir, zir, zirs, zirself'."

Uh. Well, I guess "popular" is relative. Those are new to me.

I am watching the gradual development of this issue with fascination,
because singular "they" clearly presents some problems. But I have
yet to see any clear trend towards use of an artificially created
form (this is within my own world of editing, reading, and discourse,
not on the basis of corpus research). Perhaps if someone were to name
a magazine after one it would catch on.

What I _will_ do is pass the question on to a friend who might know
if anything is being used in transsexual circles, in which he travels
much more widely than I. When we talk about the one transsexual
friend he and I have in common, we avoid pronouns altogether and
refer to the person by name -- easy, since j's name is j. (That's
short for a name that j no longer goes by.)

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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