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They/Ze/Xe: But What About Other Languages?

By Piper Moore (Co-Head of Layout and Design, ‘23)

For English speakers, the singular “they” dates back to 1375, making it fairly easy to adopt as a gender neutral pronoun (notwithstanding the fact that it’s easy to adopt in the English language, its acceptance in society has been anything but). However, for other languages, a “simple” solution isn’t available, especially for gendered languages such as French, Spanish, and Latin. Unfortunately, those are the only foreign languages available at Friends' Central. So what does that mean for our gender-nonconforming or nonbinary students?

The binary systems of these foreign languages can evoke gender dysphoria, as students are forced to settle with either masculine or feminine pronouns to make the class “easier” for other students; in some instances, the teacher doesn’t even know of another option. In the absence of options, those in the LGBTQ+ community have made their own substitutes, primarily by combining the feminine and masculine pronouns from the said languages. For French there’s “iel”, for Spanish there’s “elle”, and for Latin there’s “isquis”.* None of these gender neutral pronouns have been officially recognized yet, making them hard to find and implement. Despite the challenges and difficulties of doing so, we as a community need to start implementing and normalizing gender-neutral pronouns in foreign language classes. It’s okay to mess up—learning a new language and a new set of unofficial pronouns is hard—but if we ignore these pronouns we are also ignoring our nonbinary community. As someone who’s a part of the nonbinary community at FCS, I never thought it was possible to have a gender-neutral option in my Spanish class. I thought I would have to suck it up, and be content that at least in my other classes most people would use they/them. When my teacher approached me and asked if I would be interested in trying to use gender neutral pronouns in class, though, I was beyond enthused! I felt recognized and understood, and that feeling is essential to those who are often unable to express their true identity. From the polls I’ve taken at GSoA (Gender and Sexual Orientation Alliance), I know a majority of those who use gender-neutral pronouns in their daily lives are unable to use them in their language classes. My experience is a special case, but we as a community need to learn from it and recognize how important this change means to nonbinary students. There are more novel options arising each and every day! Nonbinary identities should be acknowledged everywhere—not just where its convenient.

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