Unisex: ‘He’ & ‘she’ become gender-neutral ‘ze’ at Oxford University
Oxford University students are being urged to use gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘ze’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ in an attempt to reduce the risk of offending transgender people.
Guidance in a students’ union leaflet being handed out around campus advises against the use of terms that suggest there are only two genders, the Times reports.
“The issue isn’t about being PC. It’s about respecting people’s right to define themselves as neither male nor female,” equal rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the Times.
It is hoped the term ‘ze’ will filter into university lectures and seminars.
According to Oxford University’s behavior code, repeated use of the wrong pronoun to define a transgender person is an offence.
It states behavior which “may amount to harassment” includes “deliberately using the wrong name or pronoun in relation to a transgender person, or persistently referring to their gender identity history.”
The move also has support at Cambridge University. Sophie Buck, the welfare officer at its students’ union, said it would help people who do not identify as male or female in university life.
“Events start with a speaker introducing themselves using a gender-neutral pronoun. It’s part of a drive to make the union intersectional,” she said.
Meanwhile, another publication is set to be distributed to 120 schools across Britain which advises them to stop using the terms ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.
The guidebook, called ‘Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?’ will be distributed to 120 selected schools by Educate and Celebrate, a government-funded organization.
The book features a fictional story about a 12-year-old transitioning from male to female. According to publishers, it is “the first book to explain medical transitioning for children aged seven and above.”
The guidebook also encourages the term ‘cisgender’ for children who identify with the gender they were born, and uses the terms ‘genderqueer’ and ‘panromantic’, meaning someone who is attracted to people of all identities.
Instead of using the terms ‘boys’ and 'girls’, the book suggests: “It may instead be preferable to group students into classes, or houses, or pupils.”
Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit told the Daily Mail, “I think it is damaging to children to introduce uncertainty into their minds.”
However, Elly Barnes, the founder of Educate and Celebrate, said the book is “much-needed.”
“Not everyone identifies as male or female – that is fact,” she said.