Sweden officially has a gender-neutral pronoun for those who don’t identify with male or female pronouns. The word “hen” first came up in the 1960s, and in 1994, linguist Hans Karlgren proposed that the word “hen” be used universally to avoid mix-ups. Everyone could be referred to as “hen.”
Now the word refers specifically to individuals who identify as gender-neutral, and Sweden has made an official step towards accepting and validating those who aren’t necessarily defined within the gender binary.
Other countries are also taking steps in this direction. Fortunately, we have words in English used to refer to gender-neutral individuals; they include “zhe,” “ou,” and “thon.” Last year, English town Brighton suggested tossing out various gender pronouns in favor of the universal “Mx.” I personally don’t like the idea of abolishing existing gender pronouns to which people feel connected, but I am excited and relieved to see the dialogue open up and for our language to express more complexities than it currently does.
People should be referred to with whatever pronoun they identify with; I personally like Ms., the pronoun coined by second wavers. What do you think about incorporating new pronouns into our language? What gender pronoun do you prefer?
Image via Frajile