Increasingly over the last few decades, transgender visibility has started to cross over into the public’s general consciousness. Although there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made in terms of respecting and empowering the social rights of transgender people, they are finding their voices more than ever as well as the courage to speak up.
One of the issues relating to transgender rights concerns being addressed by appropriate pronouns. Transgender people may not feel comfortable being addressed by the more common ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns, especially those who identify completely outside of the male – female gender binary. Non-binary transgender people have offered other pronouns to be identified by. These include; ‘(f)ae, (f)aemself’ ‘per, perself’ and ‘ze, zemself’ to list but a few.
However, this kind of innovation in the English language has not been met without controversy. Dr Jordan Peterson who is a Canadian professor caused commotion in 2015 when he started to voice his objection to what he considered as “[the] propositions of radical social constructionists” and that the federal legislation to legitimize and protect transgender people’s right to be referred to with such pronouns will “elevate to hate speech”.
What Dr Jordan Peterson might not be so familiar with is the idea that across different languages, the way pronouns are used to refer to people isn’t always bound by someone’s outward biological sex. Japanese, for example, has a much more flexible system of pronouns with up to 17 different words that correspond with the English ‘I/me’ and what is even more mind boggling is that often Japanese decides to use none at all.
In Korean, pronouns are chosen depending on a combination of someone’s gender, relative position in society in terms of power and even to come across or to refer to someone else in a cute way.
But you do not have to look so far afield to recognise this kind of pronominal variation! Consider how in the UK we refer to reigning monarchs throughout history until today, Her Majesty would surely take ritual offence if someone referred to Her Majesty as ‘she’.
The shape of the English language is changing in parallel with the development of people’s rights. As there are opponents to social change, you can always expect that there will be opposition against linguistic change too! However, pronouns work in varying and wonderful ways all around the world and so it is nothing unnatural or inorganic, and with time hopefully even the naysayers will come to accept that everyone has a right to be listened to and respected on their own terms.
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >
- MAT mini mock paper & answers If you are planning to apply to Oxford to read... Read more >
- April’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Cambridge Language Test overview If you’re applying for Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge,... Read more >
- COPA & International Deadlines Most deadlines are the same for all those applying to... Read more >
- Funding Your Oxbridge Degree Many people are under the impression that it is more... Read more >
- June’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Are my grades good enough for Oxbridge? Grades are an area of much misunderstanding when it comes... Read more >
- 20 Real-Life Oxford and Cambridge Interview Questions The Oxford and Cambridge interviews are notorious for having academically... Read more >
- LNAT mini mock paper & answers The LNAT, required for those applying for Law at Oxford... Read more >
- Philosophy Reading List If you are interested in Philosophy, there are several options... Read more >
- English: answer like a pro We have a lot of questions year on year from... Read more >
- Personal statement: our tips in the Independent Here are 3 quick tips every hopeful should consider before... Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement 2 “Further work experience has highlighted some of the demands and challenges... Read more >
- February’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- US University Applications: How Decisions Are Made Article contributed by: Dr Jon Tabbert, US university admissions educational... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge International Grade Requirements If you’re applying to Cambridge or Oxford but you’ve not... Read more >
- Classics and Arch & Anth Reading Lists If you’re applying for Classics, or for Archaeology and Anthropology,... Read more >
- Cambridge college snapshots Despite having a smaller number of colleges than Oxford, each of... Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement Read our sample Medicine personal statement for application tips. Read more >
- Social and Political Sciences Reading List We’ve brought together a wide-ranging bibliography to help those applying... Read more >
- Cambridge Law Test mini mock paper & answers If you are applying to do Law at Cambridge, chances... Read more >
- Stats report: our annual survey Every year, we survey hundreds of applicants who applied the... Read more >