In Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, authors Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman emphasize the politics of language itself and of having “the agency to have our own words and definitions of them, and insist upon them to linguistic passers-by.” A natural gender language with a history of borrowed words, like English, has the flexibility to create pronouns to suit how a person feels inside. For people who don’t identify along the gender binary, these grammatical differences can be significant. but at least in English, one can use female or other pronouns or nouns to, as the book Gender Across Languages put it,  “emphasize women’s [or other’s] presence in the world.” In a language that can’t grammatically distinguish between he, she, and ze, androcentricity—or male bias—can be even more insidious. To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. If I can say in my language, “She (or ze) is the CEO,” I can draw attention to the fact that the term CEO is a false generic. A table, for instance, is a feminine noun in French— “She is a lovely table!”—while a tree is a masculine noun in German. You want to make it as simple as you can, so you don’t overwhelm users with options. Half of millennials in the United States think that gender isn’t limited to male and female, and in the U.S., Facebook offers 56 custom options to select for gender. But I had the impression that people outside the queer world (not LGBT but ‘queer’ as in challenging gender binaries) had an even harder time with the idea of a gender-neutral pronoun than with the idea of someone ‘crossing’ gender lines (i.e. [In] German I struggle a lot with language and [I am] often very unhappy with the situation of [the lack of] German gender-neutral language. A personal pronoun diagram for Russian and Estonian learning. I somehow identify more with neutral or masculine marker words, and names. Gender neutrality and gender nullification lead to cleaner, more elegant sentences. In English, these terms include they as a singular, ze/zir or zie/zir, ze/hir or other variations, and Mx. A version of this article appeared in The Establishment and is used here with permission. Key words: gender, gender-specific pronouns, gender-neutral pronouns, language, social identity. But are they enough? Men are the standard and everything else is the exception. What can we take away from all this? The Académie Française, France’s ultimate language authority, issued a furious statementright after the book’s release. Polina Ravlyuk, a Russian blogger who runs an information portal on gender and gender identification, wrote to me in an email: For example, the word lakimies (literally lawman or lawyer) in Finnish is what is called a false generic. It shapes how we are thought about and sometimes contributes to social dysphoria. Erin Crouch lives in Tacoma, Washington and Tallinn, Estonia. Traditionally, many languages use gender binary pronouns and suffixes. The bottom-left corner shows the genderless third-person pronoun tema, which means “he” or “she”. Those who don’t know why I use that case either question it, or they think I think I’m a guy, or they just ignore it. I prefer ‘they’ or ‘he’ in English, but I don’t usually say it to people unless they ask. Those who answered “yes and no” detailed both positive and negative aspects. requesting ‘he’ instead of ‘she’). Some languages of the world (including most Austronesian languages, many East Asian languages, the Quechuan languages, and the Uralic languages [7]) do not have gender distinctions in personal pronouns, just as most of them lack any system of grammatical gender.In others, such as many of the Niger–Congo languages, there is a system of grammatical gender (or noun classes), but … In the same survey, transgender French respondent #171 was clear and succinct: These are typically borrowed words like кафе (cafe) that do not take a masculine or feminine case. I lack usable and easy to learn/apply pronouns and descriptions of myself. “I planted him in the forest, where he will grow very tall!” Though Estonian people using the term tema may not specifically picture a man or a woman, they invariably picture either a man or a woman, not anyone else in between. In languages with a neuter gender, a neuter pronoun is usually used, as in German es regnet ("it rains, it's raining"), where es is the neuter third person singular pronoun. Having just one pronoun for humans doesn’t equal perfect equality in society, though. Transgender German respondent #98 added: “The options that English presents work reasonably well for me and I can express my gender identity and use preferred pronouns […]. use “he/his” when referring to a generic individual in the third person. Certain language families, such as the Austronesian, Turkic and Uralic language families, usually have no grammatical genders (see genderless language). Pronouns in English don’t hurt me, as long as no one does it on purpose. These terms are undoubtedly beneficial, helping to allow for expression of gender fluidity. by Erin Crouch, TALLINN  English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. Tosha, a young Russian who identifies as agender, told me: Paul writes: “Usually people use the gender-neutral ‘tema’ [when] talking about any person, and because it’s the most common way to refer to a person, there is no issue with which pronoun to use. Sign up to join this community. The aim is to enhance the language by making it easier to speak about a person without specifying their gender, though some Swedish speakers are trying to promote the use of hen as a replacement for male and female pronouns; meaning everyone would be referred to without their gender being specified. Tema is used only for humans, and when used in a sentence, it is neither masculine nor feminine. But what if you needed all those choices because of the English language? This was at an early stage of me asking them not to use ‘she’ (the pronoun I was ‘assigned’ at birth), so I think people were still getting used to the idea of any pronoun other than ‘she’ for me. The new Congressional rules swap out gender-specific pronouns and other references for neutral language. It’s not always easy to use gender-neutral language in German, but we’ve compiled a list of ideas of words and phrases that might be useful to you here. “For example, in English, there are multiple nouns that I can use to classify myself (partner, student) without making reference to gender, whereas in German I’m supposed to say the feminine form of many common categories into which I fit, like student (Studentin), and have to explain myself when I refuse.” In English when I use ‘they’ to refer to a person, most people don’t notice it. As one Quora poster explained, “We just don’t distinguish the gender through the pronoun. Natural gender languages: English is an example of this kind of language, which doesn’t categorize non-human, non-animal nouns into male or female categories. Maybe someday I could use them, though. We don’t have gendered pronouns, so a regular person might call a cis man a she by accident, and not be corrected, because we are not native speakers.”. Find out more at our Patreon page. Be ready for a complex answer . Too many options can feel a bit creepy, and people may feel like … [Image courtesy of Eesti keele õppimiseks]. I do not mean pronouns like He, She, It. Misgendering in a gendered language was explained by another respondent: Would you care less about the pronouns for yourself? In English, one can say they are a teacher with a partner, and no one’s gender is revealed; French and German lack that luxury. If I can’t use she or ze, this kind of sexist/gendered assumption can be even more difficult to notice and correct. © Deep Baltic 2018. But that’s maybe because the people I talk to in English are not native speakers. There’s no “him/her” or “he/she” either. We’re always open to additions, corrections and newly coined words! And also,, i am fully aware that there are nouns that correspond to gender in english (but that change accordingly) such as blond/blonde, waiter/waitress, bachlor/bachlorette, etc. Story at a … Female lawyers are called just that: female lawyers. New reforms promote inclusion and diversity. Anybody can ask a question Anybody can answer The best answers are voted up and rise to the top Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered What is the possessive pronoun for a person whose gender we … Gender Across Languages Volume 4, published in 2015, notes the appearance of the term tema-ke or ‘little him/her,’ in use in newspapers and online to force a feminine aspect; the 2013 Spike Jonze movie Her, for example, is called Temake in Estonian. Like what Deep Baltic does? However, when the referent doesn’t exist (in the case of the nominal pronouns) or if it has an indefinite gender, then the pronoun takes his masculine form. Note: in Slavic languages marked with an asterisk (*), traditionally only masculine, feminine and neuter genders are recognized, with animacy as a separate category for the masculine and feminine (in East Slavic languages) or masculine only (elsewhere); the actual situation is similar to Czech. Lily’s book … Gender in European languages. In French, there is no neutral gender like in some other languages, like German, so every noun has a grammatical gender, including the ones who describe things without a natural gender. And notably, English as a language is mostly without grammatical gender). A young Estonian agender person interviewed for this article who prefers the name Paul does find “tema,” the genderless Estonian pronoun, helpful. Half of millennials in the United States think that gender isn’t limited to male and female, and in the U.S., Facebook offers 56 custom options to select for gender. Without my clarification, most people will picture a male CEO. It might be confusing, she says, but many languages don't have gender pronouns at all. “When I was using gender-neutral pronouns in English, it was almost impossible to get anyone who wasn’t in the queer community to use ‘they’ for me consistently. In the mid-1500s, William Lily declared in his Latin textbook that “the masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine, and the feminine more worthy than the neuter.” (He was speaking in the context of grammatical gender, rather than biological sex or socially-constructed gender roles in humans. One participant wrote: However, some languages don’t have gendered pronouns at all, so grammatical context clues are used to determine the speaker’s gender. Language and Power in Politics: A Gender Stereotype Game; Using Language to Examine Power and Gender Gradients Between YouTube’s Influencers; Man Up! To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. In Filipino, mostly Tagalog, we only use “siya” or “them” to refer to a person. This article lists languages depending on their approach to grammatical gender. So people would default to ‘she’, which was unbearable to me. For example, Seroe Fioletovoe [Gray Violet]—a transgender Russian activist who is part of the artist collective Война [War], best known for spawning punk activists Pussy Riot—uses “оно” to describe themself. That the language is very gendered is a big problem in my life.” Does Estonian offer a natural home for the nonbinary? In principle, it refers to all lawyers, but in practice, it refers only to male lawyers. For example, 'he/him/his' with men and 'she/her/hers' with women. Free-form, optional gender pronoun field on Vox Media job application, including examples. To find out how one’s native language and gender identity intersect, I spoke with people from several countries who have come out as genderqueer, nonbinary— gender-questioning in some way—and their answers reveal the importance of grammar in the expression of gender identity. 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