How to speak gender neutral

By: Charlotte Lane

Have you ever been in a situation where you suddenly realized you may have used the incorrect pronoun to address someone? Well I have, and it made me feel awkward. I was working at a hardware store and addressed a customer assuming I knew their gender. I believe my gender identifying language made us both feel uncomfortable. This situation got me thinking “Why can’t we clean up the English language to be gender neutral?” 

Use Honorary Titles 

One way to avoid these uncomfortable mistakes is by having the English language use more honorary titles. Honorary titles are often used in professional settings.  Doctors, nurses, professors, and teachers are all titles that are used to identify people without revealing their gender.  

The English language could invent more titles to use to categorize people. For example, we currently use Ms. Mrs. Mr. as salutations for individuals where we could substitute new titles that are gender free.  

Pronoun Refresh

Last year, the Merriam dictionary updated the meaning of “they” to refer to a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” How about using the option of Mx. (pronounced Mix) or RP. (respected person) to address your neighbor or business partner?

Another option is using neo pronouns (new) that some individuals have started using. Xir (him or her) or Xi (he or she) could be used to replace the use of of current gender identifying pronouns.  

Share Your Pronouns

When speaking with others, use the pronoun you prefer to be addressed by and don’t be afraid to ask others what pronouns they prefer to use. It can help avoid awkward situations by letting other people know what your pronouns are. 

An example of this is when a teacher is open about being called “they/them.” Knowing this helps foster a healthier relationship between student and teacher. 

Be Forgiving

Similar to learning any new language, it gets messy. In order to make this new language work, we need to remember that no one is perfect and people are going to make mistakes. 

If and when you do trip up, respectfully correct the misunderstanding in hopes of change. When it comes down to it, we all have our own pronouns, but regardless of these we are all biologically human.