University encouraging students to use gender-neutral pronouns like ‘ze’ and ‘zirs’

Posted at 2:51 PM, Aug 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-28 16:51:00-04

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee is encouraging students to use gender-neutral pronouns to help students feel more welcome as classes begin this month.

The pronouns include ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, and xyr.

“With the new semester beginning and an influx of new students on campus, it is important to participate in making our campus welcoming and inclusive for all,” wrote Donna Braquet in a posting on the university’s website. “One way to do that is to use a student’s chosen name and their correct pronouns.”

The goal is to create a more inclusive campus, the university says. The pronouns will help people feel more welcome and comfortable at the school.

“We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems,” Donna Braquet, the Director of the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center, told WATE. “Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

On the university’s website, Braquet writes:

“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.”

Karen Ann Simsen, the University of Tennessee’s Media and Internal Relations Director, told WATE there is no mandate or official policy to use the pronouns.

“The information provided in the newsletter was offered as a resource for our campus community on inclusive practices,” said Simsen.