Gender Neutral Pronouns in College

By Sabrina Carroll

Student Life Editor


The fact that more than two genders exist is becoming universally known. Gender identities other than strictly male or female are being seen in the media with shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Glee,” as well as with celebrities like Laverne Cox. Universities around the country are taking these ideas of gender identities even further.

Two letters is all it takes to develop and modernize this country’s world views on gender and gender roles. Recently, the University of Vermont added third-gender pronoun options for identity that has modernized their school system, including the choices “ze” or “ve.” A movement supported by their 12,700 students is affecting millions who do not identify themselves as specifically a man or woman. The University of Vermont is joining other schools, like the University of California, Irvine, to respect and recognize the enormously vast and sometimes confusing area that is gender identity.

Changes to the University of Vermont’s information system allows for a person who identifies as both genders, neither genders, transgender, or a mix of genders to be called by whatever first name they choose as well as a chosen pronoun. Faculty has access to the changes of the records so that they can identify each student respectfully.

Sometimes, I feel as though not all people understand the idea of gender. Some are stuck in the confines of believing a person is either a guy or a girl, and sometimes that is due to a lack of information or exposure. I’m sure that many people have run into the situation where they come across a person but cannot tell whether they are a guy or a girl. You wonder what to call them; their name might be applicable to both genders. Then there becomes this moment of confusion, questioning, and maybe even a bit of awkwardness, because you want to identify the person correctly.

It is vital to keep in mind that not only are there people who are born male who wish to be female or vice-versa, but some people may consider themselves to be gender fluid, meaning they feel different degrees of boyish and girlish on some days, or have a bi-gender identity, where there are two set points of feeling like a man or woman. Maybe they identify as a specific gender, but dress like the opposite or have qualities not normally associated with the gender they were born with.

Most people quickly assess a person, specifically their gender, based on looks. People look at the type of clothing other people wear, how they have their hair done, and leave assumptions at the most basic level. I feel as though society has always questioned, “What defines a man? What defines a woman?” People categorize other people using traditional ideas as guides.

This is why movements from these universities are so imperative in striving to recognize humans as humans and not as their gender identity, but still pay respect to whichever identity they choose. The question we need to explore in greater depth is “What defines a person?” rather than quickly classifying people as male or female based on what we think they look like.

I could cover The Elm front-to-back with different gender identities, and I think that is what makes humans so cool. Millions of people are not one gender. There is nothing wrong with being one gender, a mix of both genders, or neither genders. There has always been a grey area with gender identities and it is about time everyone starts to recognize that more. While I personally do not question my identity as a woman there are people who do, and it makes me so happy that people like the those at the University of Vermont are taking steps to ensure the happiness, health, and feeling of security for all people – men, women, both, or none.

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