Show respect to all people by adding gender neutral pronouns to dictionaries.
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Online dictionaries do not recognize the gender-neutral pronouns "xie" and "hir" (and their alternate spellings), widely used by LGBT community members and others who wish to refer to individuals as a person instead of as a gender. Simply put, xie is an inclusive, gender-neutral alternative to he or she, and hir is a gender-neutral alternative to his or her.
There are two issues here, a gender issue and a language issue. Both are discussed below. But first:
Think of the most pejorative term you know. Depending upon your gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, weight, hair color, economic class, and other attributes, this term varies by individual. Now go look it up on an online dictionary. I bet that word is there. That's because dictionaries don't judge words and only include the nice ones or the popular ones. An English dictionary is supposed to be a reference for all English words. And not just the ones the majority of people use or even know. Go ahead and flip through a dictionary. Even if you have a large vocabulary, you'll come across a word you don't know and never use. Why? Because a dictionary is a reference for all words. Yet when I went to look up xie, hir and Mx. they weren't in any online dictionaries. Haven't heard of these words? I bet you also haven't heard of some of the 150 plus words Merriam-Webster added recently, including:
Catfish (not meaing the fish)
These are not words that the average person knows and uses, at least not all of them. Yet, they were all added because someone somewhere thought them up and started to use them. Just like someone somewhere created the words xie, hir, and Mx. to fill a need.
English does not have gender neutral personal pronouns for individuals. There is "they" for more than one person but not a gender neutral pronoun for singular persons. Instead of making people use he or she, they could use xie. Simple, right?
Since xie isn't in the dictionary, when a person's gender is unknown (imagine a person too far away to distinguish gender or someone who rushed by before you could get a good look at him or her), people are forced to:
Use "they" for a single person, which is grammatically incorrect
Use "he" as a default, which is unfair to women and people who don't identify as either gender
Use "it," which could offend some people
"Xie" and "hir" eliminate all these problems, creating both options for individuals who don't identify with a binary gender and options for people to use when gender is unknown. The words are already in use. There is no reason why they should not be added to all dictionaries.
Gender Issue (societal and psychological)
Biologically speaking, there are more than two genders. Many animal species have several. Humans have more than two. The term intersex is used for animals (including humans) that due to chromosomes, genitalia, or gonads do not fit into a binary, male/female model for categorization. Therefore, we can throw out the incorrect notion that male or female, him or her, and he or she are sufficient.
Then there are societal concerns. Anthropologists recognize up to five genders. Some societies acknowledge three, four, or five genders. Even some religious texts refer to a third gender. There are not only male and female. There just aren't. Therefore, words must exist for people who aren't one of of only two options, male or female, either biologically speaking or psychologically speaking.
Xie and hir address this issue, allowing people who don't fit into the binary male/female model to use alternatives to he, she, him, and her. It makes a lot of sense and has already been successfully achieved in Sweden.
"Hen" has been recognized as a gender-neutral term in Sweden since 2012. It was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia with the definition "proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon]." "Xie" and "hir" are more commonly used in the US.
We'd also like to see the title "Mx." added as an alternative to "Ms.," "Mrs." or "Mr." This would be a logical move as well as a respectful one since many marketing campaigns have to guess at preferred genders when targeting people, often getting it wrong. "Mx." would satisfy the need for a title when the gender is unknown, when a person prefers not to be referred to by a gender (privacy issues comes to mind), and when a person doesn't identify as male or female.
We already submitted "xie," "hir," "Mx." and "hen" to Merriam-Webster in late April. The response says that new words are processed in 3 days, but ours have not appeared.
In addition to the Swedish dictionary, we used Cullyn Royson's novel, Seducer Fey, (recently named a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Nancy Pearl Book Award) as a reference for "xie," "hir" and "Mx." Science fiction and fantasy novels have a long history of creating new words or being the first to use them, most prominently "grok" as used by Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land, which is recognized by Merriam-Webster. "Muggle" is a popular word thanks to Harry Potter.
We'd love to start with the online dictionaries and gain momentum so that eventually every person has a pronoun to use which he, she or xie is comfortable using. Adding the words to the dictionary is merely about fairness in recognizing that these words are in use, and therefore deserve a spot. You don't have to agree with them or use them, but just like those pejorative terms you must support all words being in dictionaries. Anything less is censorship.
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