BY RILEY FANNING
The traditional gender binary is one that we all know and, for the most part, accept. There are men and there are women. Two distinct facets of humanity, an overarching theme throughout civilization, an opposite pairing intended to work together.
But society has become more aware that this simplistic view of human reality is not inclusive of the spectrum of possibilities.
The University of Tennessee sparked controversy when the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion posted an online guide to gender neutral terms. The information included a graphic explaining the pronouns such as “ze, zir and hir”. These are additional options in place of the traditional he/ her, for students or faculty that identify differently from their presumed gender.
The chart, which was meant to be a guide and a helpful educational tool for students was quickly mocked, with many claiming that the university was attempting to do away with traditional pronouns in favor of being overly politically correct. The guide was promptly taken down, but leaves many lingering questions about current culture and our collective ideas about gender.
Depending on the individual, pronoun preferences will vary and deserve respect.
Knowledge about variations in gender and sexuality has been expanding, especially in 2015. The first notable challenges to the norms began with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, and the birth of the gay rights movement.
In modern times, being gay is not the taboo it once was, and has paved a pathway for more sexual/gender minorities to come out of their own societal closets.
The world typically thinks of people as being cisgender, a.k.a being born with your gender and your biology aligning. Now there is insight that sometimes things do not match up so perfectly.
While biologically one may have an XX or XY chromosome resulting in a biological sex, gender pertains to the social characteristics and roles associated with men and women.
A person may be born into a biologically female body but, have a male gender, which results in a transgender individual.
Awareness of transgender people has skyrocketed due to influential people, such as actress Laverne Cox, or arguably the most well known transgender woman of 2015, Caitlyn Jenner.
Other than being transgender, a whole host of other alignments are experienced by people. Terms such as gender fluid, agender and gender-queer describe gender identities that break apart from the rigid structures of masculinity and femininity, which were once considered constant and universal.
Just as when a cisgender man desires to be called he/him, and a cisgender women desires to be called she/her, gender identity is not something that should be questioned or disregarded.
Everyone has preferred pronouns, but while some people have to ask for them to be respected, others are automatically given it.
The idea of honoring an individuals preferred pronouns is simple and straightforward – every person is different. Not all individuals experience gender in the same way. Using someone’s preferred pronouns, whether they be he/her or something new and unfamiliar such as ze/hir, should be respected. It is not up to an external person to determine whether or not someone should be addressed as they identify and desire.
Being respectful of another is not being overly politically correct, it is being a decent human being.