OXFORD, England – The prestigious University of Oxford wants students to replace “she” and “he” with the more gender-neutral pronoun “ze.”
The university’s behavior code states that using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is considered an offense, and a new leaflet distributed by the student union supposedly aims to cut down on hurt feelings and discrimination by encouraging students to use “ze” instead, the Independent reports.
British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell applauded the move.
“It is a positive thing to not always emphasize gender divisions and barriers,” he told the Daily Mail.
“It is good to have gender-neutral pronouns for those who want them but it shouldn’t be compulsory,” Tatchell said. “This issue isn’t about being politically correct or censoring anyone. It’s about acknowledging the fact of changing gender identities and respecting people’s right to not define themselves as male or female.”
“Giving people the ‘ze’ option is a thoughtful, considerate move,” he said.
The change suggested by the Oxford’s student union follows a trend of schools moving toward more “gender inclusive” language to describe students who don’t want to be labeled male or female.
The University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion issued a list of suggested gender-neutral pronouns for students that included “ze,” as well as other terms like “xe,” “hir,” “zir,” “xem,” and “wyr” to identify transgender students that created a public firestorm, The Tennessean reports.
Officials later removed the guidance from the university’s website amid the backlash, according to EAGnews.
In England, Cambridge University is also moving toward more “inclusive” language, and student welfare officer Sophie Buck told The Sunday Times student union events there “start with a speaker introducing themselves using a gender neutral pronoun.
“It’s part of a drive to make the union intersectional,” she said.
Buck’s transgender classmate, Franky Sissons, agreed that “gender neutral pronouns are good,” and said he believes they “should happen in lectures too.”
The Daily Mail also highlighted a “guidebook for teachers, parents and pupils” about transgender issues that was sent to schools “by Educate & Celebrate, a Government-funded body that goes into primary and secondary schools to give lessons on ‘gender diversity’.”
The guidebook explains why folks should shun language that implies there are only two genders – such as “ladies and gents” or “boys and girls” – in favor of gender neutral terms, and explains to students how prepubescent students “transition” into another sex using hormone blockers, according to the news site.
The materials, of course, are infuriating some parents, educators and lawmakers, many of whom have spoken out publicly against the effort.
“I think it is damaging to children to introduce uncertainty into their minds,” former Tory Party Chairman Lord Tebbit told the Daily Mail.
“We have to respect the feelings of everybody, including teachers and parents who want traditional modes followed,” said Sir Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College.
“This is likely to sow more confusion than clarity,” added Reverend Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester.