The University of Tennessee has told its staff and students to stop calling each other ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘him’ and ‘her’ – and to start referring to one another with terms like ‘xe’, ‘zir’ and ‘xyr’ instead.
The Knoxville branch of the public university, which has 27,400 students, sent a memo round to its members filled with unusual new parts of speech to avoid referring to anybody’s gender.
According to a gay rights official at the university, the new language regime will make the university ‘welcoming and inclusive’ and stop people feeling ‘marginalized’.
The university published the instructions on its website on Wednesday after they were emailed to every member of the university by the institution’s Vice Chancellor for Diversity.
Officials have since insisted the guidelines are not compulsory and that they do not want to ‘dictate speech’.
Donna Braquet, who runs the university’s Pride Center, wrote the guidelines, which are accompanied with a long table demonstrating how to replace the regular parts of speech.
She also advises staff members not to call roll in class, and to instead greet every student by asking them to announce their name and pronoun of preference.
Instead of ‘he’ and ‘she’, Braquet suggests four alternatives.
One is the commonplace strategy of using ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ for individuals rather than groups.
She also suggests ‘ze’ and ‘xe’ – both pronounced ‘zhee’ – and a variety of secondary conjugations to be used for anybody who rejects the traditional gender binary.
Barquet argues that if everybody follows her instructions, campus will become ‘more inclusive’.
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