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Hey book dragons,
today, I’m not here with a bookish post but with one related to the book community: a blog post about language, aber gender neutral pronouns and language use. As someone who uses gender neutral pronouns themselves and as a linguist I’m quite interested in this topic.
I asked on twitter and instagram if you would be interested in such posts and I got amazing feedback. So many of you wanted to read it. I also received tons of questions relating to this topic. And because of all those questions, of all the languages I want to talk about I have to make this a blog series because I do think the amount of linguistic stuff is too much to take in at once. And it’s better you learn it with time and remember it later than just read it once and immediately forget it again.
So how will this series be organised? First, I’m going to talk about some general things like definitions and the reasons we have to know to understand this blog series. This will happen in today’s post. Second, I’ll talk about gender neutral pronouns in different languages with some cross-linguistic examination of them, then a look at gender neutral language in general and across languages as well as a some personal guide lines of what to do when you have to deal with being misgendered and what allies can do to help. (That last part is highly personal. It’s more of an opinion piece than general guidelines. So other persons who prefer the use of gender neutral language may see differently.)
So for now, lets get into today’s blog post.
Why do we need gender neutral pronouns and language use?
Like many of us already know, gender is a social construct (yes, I’m going with this phrase) and there are more genders than male and female. If you don’t know this and this blog post is the first resource for you, then it’s probably because of how you grew up. I, myself, didn’t know there were other genders until in my late teenage years when I discovered tumblr. I’m from Germany and here about 99,9% of the population think that there are only 2 genders and only 3 sexual orientations (straight, gay, lesbian) which is just so wrong.
Anyway, gender is a spectrum. In many civilisations across time and place, we can find gods, demigods, heros and historical figures who didn’t identify themselves as either male or female, who aren’t portrayed this way, who are respected for what they are. Then the abrahamic religions and other historical stuff become a thing and suddenly only allocishets were allowed to exist. But I’m ranting and won’t get into this.
Anyway, for hundreds of years the lgbtqiapd+ community fought back, new terminology was created and society is changing in such ways that it is more socially accepted to be who you are – sadly very slowly. Of course, I know and you should too, that people identifying outside the binary always existed but often they were closeted or silenced. Also we should never forget indigenous people because they have their own identities (like for example they might use Takatāpui (Māori) or Two-Spirit (for example Mvskoke)). When you don’t allow them to be who they are, to use their own terms, their own language you’re just racist. RACIST, WHAT? Yes, we can’t talk about the lgbtqiapd+ community and the use of languages without respecting everyone’s history and ethnicity because race can never be separated from the talk about other marginalisations. But I’m white and so I don’t want to center me in the talk about this. Please follow and look up QPoC and queer indigenous people on twitter or tumblr and listen to them. (Be nice. Pay them if they want).
So, when people don’t identify as cis male of cis female, they might use gender neutral pronouns. That’s why we need them. There are genderqueer, non-binary, genderfluid, genderfux, agender, bigender, trigender, pangender etc. people and we need to be recognised. We need to be respected and represented because everybody has the right to be treated like everybody else. Because gender rights and equality are human rights.
When you’re not sure what other genders there are or when you don’t know what certain gender identities mean, then here is a tumblr post featuring a list with different gender identities for you. (Please note that not every gender identity might be included in this list).
Like you can see, there as dozens of gender identities outside the cis binary and so of course we need more pronouns than he/him and she/her to represent us. It’s just not possible to respect anyone when you say we have to use the binary pronoun system (in those languages who have them). It’s the individual’s decision how they identify and what pronouns we us. Nobody else has a say in this.
Please note that this blog series is just a start. It’s definitely not an extensive list. There are more pronouns. There are more languages with even more pronouns. There are more connections between the languages and there are more reasons for why we need those pronouns.
Now, here are the links to the future posts in this blogs series. I’ll update them every time I’ll upload a post. I plan to have one post up every Friday so that you have the weekend to read, understand and learn them. I might add more blog posts later so keep an eye out to see any changes:
Gender neutral pronouns in Germanic languages (14/7/2017) (Update: because of technical problems I have to postpone this blog post. I’ll keep y’all updated on my twitter account. Link at the end of this post. I’m sorry)
Gender neutral pronouns in Romance languages (21/7/2017)
Gender neutral pronouns in Slavic languages (28/7/2017)
Gender neutral pronouns in Sino-Tibetan languages (4/8/2017)
Gender neutral pronouns in Semitic languages (11/8/2017)
Gender neutral pronouns in Austronesian languages (18/8/2017)
Gender neutral language (everything besides pronouns) (25/8/2017)
Guidelines to make gender neutral pronouns/languages more common (1/9/2017)
I’m always here for suggestions, criticism and questions. Please correct me when I make a mistake. When you don’t like what I do tell what I can do differently.
I hope this series will be something you like and that might help you in the future either as a person using gender neutral pronouns, as an ally helping us, as a writer including them in your books or as a reader to identify the use of them.
Hope you all have a nice weekend.
Xo Kevin – sumptuousbooks