Not "he" or "she", but "ze" – Gender-neutral pronouns, why the fuck not?

By Kai Teo
Cover picture: Timjan Fiadotter

Fill in the blank: The bus driver is late. _____ must be caught in a traffic jam.
a) He
b) She
c) He or she
d) It

For those of us who know the English language, most would have chosen option "c" as the answer. Yea, makes sense right? You don't really know whether the bus driver is male or female. So don't assume. Personally, I've been using "he or she" for as long as I started writing, but there hasn't been a gender-neutral pronoun that I could use to replace "that person". Is that even important? Can't I just stick to "he or she'? Or use "it"?

No, for fuck's sake. I use "it" for puppies and tables and chairs, not humans. And when people use "it" to refer to another human being, it's always been used with an intention to ridicule or insult. Of course, you can still choose to refer to yourself as "it", freedom of choice yo.

Then this video by Refinery29 Wellness appeared on my Facebook newsfeed:

And thus, the word "Ze" was first introduced to my vocabulary. Even though Oxford University has stated that its student union did not encourage students to avoid using "he" or "she", the student union acknowledges the use of all the pronouns "ze", "he" and "she". "Misgendering would likely have the biggest impact on individuals who may already be struggling to get people to use 'he' or 'she' for them," the union said.

So no, it doesn't replace "he" or "she", the term "ze" serves to give the freedom of choice to individuals who do not feel that they belong to either the male or female gender. Or when you don't know the gender of someone. That's legit.

So why are people so fucking pissed off? We scrolled down to the comments section of this video and here's what we saw:

Like, ok, there's a new word that we can grammatically use so that we can describe persons more accurately. "I couldn't really see the DJ. But the music ze played took me to a whole new plane of consciousness." Works. And it sounds sexily French. What's more important, is that it gives trans individuals a recognition that we respect their wishes in not being identified as either male or female. 

No one is forcing you to use it. If someone wants to be addressed by the pronoun "ze", it's as simple as giving the same respect to another person who introduces herself as "Destinee". You don't go to Destinee and say, "I'd called you Debra instead, I really don't like names that I'm not used to hearing." 

The same goes to people who would now prefer to be a referred to as "ze", please don't get aggressive when others still have a difficult time picking it up. Simply remind them politely, and trust that the people that cherish you as a friend would respect your choice. Stay strong and keep standing firm. Change doesn't come easy, and it's definitely not gonna be an overnight thing. There are still racists and homophobes in the world, because stupidity and self-righteousness are the biggest, and the most resilient diseases of the human race.

Granted. It still feels a bit weird to use the word "ze". And no, please don't comment, "Ze, your an insult to the English language #yolo #lol #rofl" People didn't have an issue with the words "Vape" and "Emoji" and adopted it into their everyday conversations readily. And many overnight stewards of English who claim that the new word is a perversion of the language can't even tell the difference between "its" and "it's". So really, what's the issue?

In January 2017, even National Geographic published its Gender Revolution Special Edition, recognising the free choice of individuals who prefer to be identified as another gender other than male or female.

It really isn't about playing god or denying evolution. It's really the freedom of letting everyone be whoever they are, and respecting that. 

We've always preached "Your freedom ends where another person's freedom begins." An individual has the freedom to choose to be identified as neither a "he" or "she", and you, of course, have the freedom to choose whether to give a shit or not. This person can't MAKE you say "ze", it's up to you.

All we're saying is, the option is there, and if you really want to perceive your world as a strict male-female one, you're of course free to do so. But don't go telling others that they can't be identified as another gender of their choice because that doesn't sit well with your world view. Your vicious comments on the internet are just as scathing as a radical religious bigot's flying bullets. Just because people are different from the majority doesn't mean they're wrong. They're just them, not you. Let them have the freedom to be them.

To understand this issue better, Buddha Mag talked to Timjan Fiadotter, who, since a young age, has been uncomfortable with the assigned gender "female". 

"I have always felt a discomfort in being assigned typical female features. Growing up, I didn't have the words to describe myself, I didn't know you could be non-binary. When I started to learn more about it, and got to know people who didn't fit in to the binary male/female spectre, I felt such a relief."

Timjan Fiadotter

Timjan Fiadotter

Timjan continued, "I don't have to choose between two uncomfortable roles. I can be me! I'm still questioning and searching inside myself a lot about my own gender identity. My journey to figure it out gets a lot easier if people around me don't decide for me, if they give me the space to be whoever I want, and don't put labels on me, assuming my gender and using a pronoun that has so much predetermined characteristics, roles, and expectations to it, I might just be able to be free to figure myself out and live my life to the fullest, being able to express all sides of myself. And I wish this for everyone."

When asked about the real problems of being misgendered, Timjan answered, "Everyday I get misgendered. And it's such a discomfort. The worst is when people who know my pronoun misgender me. To be disrespected by people you know hurts. When people misgender me, they make my whole identity invisible. If I feel safe, I correct them. But it's pretty often I don't, 'cause I don't have the energy to get questioned, ridiculed or even hated." 

It's fucking insane to hate someone because they don't identify with being a male or a female. The idea scares people so much, so often, that it manifests itself as hate, a simple, well understood, and even celebrated form of response to the unknown. Even right now as you're reading this, someone is giving shit to an openly homosexual person, and another idiot is celebrating this act of violence as "defending our family morals". Come on, people.

Those of us who have never struggled with our gender would never truly understand how it truly feels. I was born a male, and throughout my life, I've identified myself as a male, even though these days, I don't really care about social expectations of being a man. "I have a penis, so I'm male. Everything else is a free-for-all fuck fest." Pretty simple. I've never struggled, just like many of you who might be reading this article now. So who are we to dismiss the right of our fellow human beings who have chosen to give themselves an identity, and through that, draw the strength required to help them understand themselves better, and to become better people? 

Gender Neutral Pronouns. Source: web.mit.edu (or the smartest people on earth)

Gender Neutral Pronouns. Source: web.mit.edu (or the smartest people on earth)

Look, we're starting to open up to non-monogamous relationships, we're becoming ok with homosexuality, we're even starting to understand bisexuality. "Ze" doesn't hurt anyone in its existence. In the contrary, it means a lot to many people. This is simply one more step to a greater understanding and acceptance of all human beings, so we're asking, "Why the fuck not?"


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