While this may be just another “he said, she said” situation, a document released at the University of Tennessee suggests that it may be actually a “ze said, xe said” situation. Donna Braquet the director of the university’s Pride Center is asking faculty and students to drop using “he” and “she” in favor of using “correct pronouns” for particular students like ze, hir, zir, xe, xem and xyr to reflect a broader array of gender identifications. We recently discussed how the University of California has adopted six different gender categories for students. Braquet is now suggesting that faculty adopt the new array of pronouns (“dozens of gender-neutral pronouns”) and use whatever the student feels is appropriate.
Donna Braquet is associate professor and biology librarian with University Libraries. In fairness to Braquet, she is trying to have a dialogue about how to respond to the growing adoption of different gender identifications and fulfilling her role in working to make the university a more accommodating place. In that sense, I am not sure it is accurate to say that this is university policy, at least not yet.
Braquet insists that this is part of “making our campus welcoming and inclusive for all.” However, this could add a considerable burden for faculty, particularly in large classes. Bracket suggests “[i]nstead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns . . . [so that] you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students.” She suggests “You can always politely ask,” she wrote. “’Oh, nice to meet you (insert name). What pronouns should I use?’”
“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 identify 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.”
She admits that this can seem odd but she says that that is simply because it is new. As an academic, this would be a pretty daunting task for keeping track of so many options. I have a class of around 130 students. More importantly, I am still behind the learning curve on what terms like “xyr” mean, though Braquet insists that this is just part of learning the new lingo for a new age.
What do you think?