University of Tennessee Promotes Gender-Neutral Pronoun Guide

ashley.rae | August 28, 2015
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The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is encouraging individuals to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as “ze,” “xem,” and “xyr,” in order to foster a more “inclusive” environment.

The University of Knoxville’s “Pride Center” director, Donna Braquet, posted a guide to “pronoun usage” to make the campus “welcoming and inclusive for all.”

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s pronoun usage page includes a list of potential pronouns along with their pronunciations in order to help professors and students become better acquainted with gender-neutral pronouns:


(Image source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville Office of Diversity and Inclusion)

According to the guide, “We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems.”

“Transgender people and people who do not identity within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth,” Braquet writes.

Therefore, Braquet believes it is important to ask students for their preferred pronouns:

“In the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns. This ensures you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students.”

“This practice works outside of the classroom as well. You can start meetings with requesting introductions that include names and pronouns, introduce yourself with your name and chosen pronouns, or when providing nametags, ask attendees to write in their name and pronouns.”

Branquet states that it is “perfectly fine” to ask an individual who you just met for that person's preferred pronoun:

 “If you cannot use the methods mentioned above, you can always politely ask. ‘Oh, nice to meet you, [insert name]. What pronouns should I use?' is a perfectly fine question to ask.”

To learn more about gender-neutral pronouns, Braquet suggests people sign up for a “Safe Zone workshop.” At the completion of the training, students receive a sticker to show their “commitment to providing a safe space for and celebrating the invaluable contributions of LGBTQIA individuals and communities.”

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