The gender neutral pronoun

This page is an adaptation of a post which I originally put up at Erotic Mad Science a while back.

There will come times on this site where it will be convenient to be able to refer to something with a third-person singular pronoun that doesn’t reference a person’s gender.  There are a number of posts on this site about matters of sex and sexuality, and in many of them I want, insofar as it is possible, to avoid heteronormativity or to give the impression that I am whining about the supposed character or conduct of members of any particular gender.  I am not; I think that sex does a lt to make us miserable without regard to what gender we are and that we also have the capacity to beahve in beastly manners toward one another, regardless of what gender we happen to be.

It’s a shame that English, and for that matter all the Indo-European languages with which I have at least a nodding familiarity, have such a problem with this.  Languages like Chinese (the spoken version of Standard Modern Chinese, anyway) make do with a single pronoun  () that does full duty for “he,” she”, and “it” with no noticeable loss in ability to communicate.  (Likewise Finnish makes do with just hän, or so I am given to understand.) Sometimes in English we can substitute “they” in constructions to make something gender-neutral.  Sometimes this makes sense, but often trying to do this strains the sense and ought not to be done.

After mulling the matter over for a while, I have decided that in instances where I really need a gender-neutral pronoun for a single individual, I am going to use the pronoun ve , introduced by the New Zealand writer Keri Hulme and adopted by the Australian hard sci-fi writer Greg Egan for characters (like those in the spectacular novel featured to the left) who don’t fit into conventional notions of gender.  The pronoun has the following grammatical structure:

Nominative:  ve (“Ve has a blog”)

Accusative: ver (“I called ver.  I like to blog about ver.”)

Possessive determinative: vis (“This is vis blog.”)

Possessive: vis (“That is vis.”)

Reflexive: verself (“Ve blogs about verself too much.”)

It might seem a little jarring at first, but I hope with time the reader will find it increasingly natural to speak in this way.

4 thoughts on “The gender neutral pronoun

  1. Pingback: Vices as slow suicide ~

Comments are closed.