Preferred Gender Pronouns Are About To Become A Thing


He said/she said/ ze…what now? Preferred Gender Pronouns (PGPs) are becoming commonplace in LGBT focused student organizations at colleges across the country.

“Ze,”‘sie,” “e,” “ou” and “ve” have been added to the traditional “he or she” as PGPs by some students, and the Associated Press spoke to Mills College’s “Mouthing Off!” LGBT student organization president Skylar Crownover (who prefers to be referred to as “he” or “they”) about the PGP that they prefer to use.

“Because I go to an all-women’s college, a lot of people are like, ‘If you don’t identify as a woman, how did you get in?’ I just tell them the application asks you to mark your sex and I did,” Crownover explained. “It didn’t ask me for my gender.”

Other colleges are following suit, with the University of Vermont allowing the choice of “she, he, and ze” on their class rosters and Hampshire College in Massachusetts using PGPs for its campus tour guides on their website.

Confusing or not, PGPs seem to be here to stay. Trinity College writer-in-residence Lucy Ferriss sees it as a natural progression not only of the LGBT rights movement, but of language itself.

“Most language has evolved organically,” she said. “But there have been times — and when it comes to issues of gender there probably have to be times — when there are people willing to push the envelope.”

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #gender #genderidentity #pgps stories and more


  • 2eo

    It’s only confusing if you’re a fucking idiot.

  • Fitz

    Instead of “ze” I use the formal “pretentious bitch”.

  • hex0

    Bunch of bored and narcissistic college students. What does making up pronouns for yourself have to do with gays and lesbians anyway?

  • Elloreigh

    @2eo: I thoroughly disagree. Not only is this a completely new concept to many people, there doesn’t seem to be any well-established, consistently-used set of alternative pronouns. Such a set might eventually emerge, but it doesn’t exist as of now.

    As for the need for alternative pronouns, I’m not entirely sure that I get it myself. Maybe someone less inclined to call people names can inform and persuade me.

    Do gay men and lesbians prefer an alternate pronoun? If so, that’s news to me. Where do bisexuals stand on this?

    That brings us to the ‘T’ in LGBT. Is there a split within that community concerning pronouns? I would think that one might prefer to be referenced according to the gender by which they identify. Is there a faction that wants a separate pronoun that refers to trans-men, trans-women? Or one that refers to transgender individuals who have decided against pursuing surgical options? Something else? I confess myself ignorant on that score, so educate me – I’m willing to learn. I’m a gay man, but I have very little contact with the “gay community”, and even less with those who identify as transgender. It’s unreasonable to just expect people to know the right term when it’s not a part of their daily lives – even more so when the use of alternate pronouns is inconsistent.

    That leaves those who don’t wish to identify as one gender or the other. Which I suppose might be some in an intersex situation, or those who just eschew the concept of gender altogether.

    My point being, the idiot is the one who calls people names based on highly questionable assumptions.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Elloreigh: Generally speaking, the choice of a gender pronoun is a very personal one. Many, possibly most, trans folk want to transition to the other gender and adopt that pronoun, but there are those for whom that holds no appeal. The reasons for that can be various: perhaps they don’t consider themselves a man or a woman and thus don’t want to use the associated pronoun, perhaps they feel that the use of “he” or “she” helps to prop up the gender binary, maybe they haven’t decided yet where they feel they fit in. I think what some people miss is that “he” and “she” are also preferred gender pronouns. Oftentimes with trans folk the presentation isn’t a strong indicator, so it’s considered polite to ask preferred gender pronouns so as not to give offense.

  • QJ201

    If you’ve been anywhere near a LGBT community center, a LGBT college group or a course in queer theory…alternate pronouns “became a thing” 20 years ago.

    “everyone go around the room and state your gender and preferred pronoun”


    FYI: don’t get me started on “cisgender” which was invented by a trans person and is often used like a slur against non-trans people.

  • Kamuriie

    Yeaaaaaaaahhhh… No. I’m happy to call a trans* person by their preferred pronoun if they make their preference known, but never will I be making the assumption that people don’t want to identify as their biologically apparent sex/gender, and instead proactively instead asking them what their “PGPs” are.

    Not going to happen. Why? Because 99.999% of the people on the planet DO see their gender as set by their sex, and asking 999,999/100,000 people what their preference is (when it’s OBVIOUS) in order to indulge the obnoxious 1/100,000 twit.

    Oh, and if you tell me you don’t identify as either gender, and want to be called “zim,” “ze,” or any other total nonsense, I’m going to tell you to kindly STFU.

  • the other Greg

    This might be a slight improvement over the current system where we’re supposed to guess Millennials’ genders based upon their visible tattoos.

  • jwrappaport

    @Kamuriie: I don’t think it’s about indulging the obnoxious 1/100,000 twit, but rather about treating people with dignity – especially when they’re different from you.

    I’ve definitely put my foot in my mouth where pronouns are concerned, and I admit that it can be frustrating trying to keep track of them – but pick your fights. If someone prefers “zim” or “ze,” who cares? The cost to you is non-existent, while the benefit to the other person could well be a meaningful reaffirmation of their dignity and personhood. I’m reminded of a time where my father unwittingly referred to my boyfriend as my “friend” – it hurt deeply, and I would hazard a guess that trans folk feel at least something like that when people use wrong pronouns.

  • Rockery

    People are already using this but and pronoun that does not sound like either is better ze can be misheard as she

  • Pistolo

    I have a lot of thoughts about gender roles but, frankly, I see this as being almost completely needless. It’s similar to how I feel about certain bisexual people who start this crusade against “labels”, it’s not getting to the heart of the issue. It’s petty and entirely unrelatable to people who aren’t of that overbearingly intellectualized echelon, it’s so self-possessed.

    Let’s face it, those of us in the LGBTQ are minorities, we don’t need to assimilate everyone else to our sexuality or our gender. We need to represent ourselves to teach people in the majority to embrace “the other”, whomever that might be. Not to preach.

    That doesn’t mean you still can’t have your dignity, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be distinguished. Just don’t be so righteous as to try and spite innocuous language to provoke free thinking. Have a dialogue, don’t try to re-define all the words.

  • getbackjoe94

    I really don’t like these. Call me stupid, or simple-minded, but I feel stupid when I say these words. “Zim”? I feel like some alien in a bad B movie from the fifties. If the need to identify someone based on their gender ever becomes a thing of the past, I sincerely hope that these aren’t the pronouns to replace them.

  • vklortho

    @QJ201: They is an already acceptable single person gender neutral pronoun in the English language. Just saying.

  • hotshot70

    if the person looks male, use “he”, if they look female, use “she” unsure, use “it”

  • Thedrdonna

    @hotshot70: “It” is completely unacceptable to use on a person who has not specifically asked you to use that pronoun.

  • Anne J. Pine

    implied I am taken by surprise that someone able to earn $6934 in one month on the computer. this website>>> iz.sg/Br

  • Jake357

    I don’t think the G, L, and B’s give a crap about ridiculous new pronouns. It’s further proof that the rest of the alphabet soup that attaches itself to us like leeches is dragging us down into comic absurdity, making our efforts all the more muddled and difficult to achieve. While I’m not saying we can’t be supportive of their cause, in the end it is THEIR cause. I say down with alphabet city!

  • Fitz

    I’m with Jake.

  • EdgarCarpenter

    I remember when the prefix Ms was invented to remove the marriage status of Miss and Mrs when referring to women. It took a long time to move into mainstream language, and lots of people objected to it. But it’s non-controversial today because it serves a useful purpose.

    I’d go for adding a third set of easy to say, non-silly common gender pronouns as a wide-open, neutral replacement for ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ – ‘personine’! – for those who want to opt out of that duality completely. That follows the model of using ‘Ms’ to remove marital status from a woman’s designation. It would give de-emphasizing gender categories a needed boost, and get us further towards a time free of gender rules to conform to.

    The academic invention of gender designations, on the other hand, is doing the opposite. Instead of de-emphasizing gender-based rules and continuing to widen the range of emotions and behaviors that are acceptable within the traditional gender designations, they are creating a more rigid structure of many narrow gender identities. This leads to renewed tribal us-and-them thinking, brand new categories of outsiders, and general trouble. I think the academic over-definition of genders will eventually be seen as a temporary step backwards.

  • jojothedogfacedboy

    It’s LGBTQ. The community doesn’t stop at the first two letters, although a lot of gay white men probably wish it would.

  • sportyguy1983


  • Jake357

    @jojothedogfacedboy: Nice racism there. That’s really going to help your argument. But let me ask you this: who decided it is LGBTQ? I can tell you, a poll wasn’t taken. Votes weren’t cast. You drank the Kool Aid. Trans issues are tangential to the struggle of Gays and Lesbians, esp when they have to do with issues like bathrooms and gender pronouns. These are not issue for me. Can I sympathize with their challenges? Sometimes. But, then, sometimes not. I can also sympathize with single mothers raising mentally challenged biracial babies. Doesn’t mean their fight is specifically mine and than [email protected]$% should include them as well. When your message is too broad, your voice becomes too thin and no one ends up listening.

  • alterego1980

    @EdgarCarpenter: The problem is that as long as there are people who say they don’t fit into any catagories, there will be councilors and psychologists who want to label those people and “figure them out” and classify them and add that classification to their 6pm Gender Studies class. It’s a never-ending cycle.
    Personally, I go with he or she until I find out that person has a different preference and then I try to respect their wishes. But I really don’t like the sound of Ze, or calling a person “they” when that’s plural. Sounds like s/he has split personalities.

Comments are closed.