Sunday, September 16, 2007
The notion of "ze"
I was recently conversing with an individual about Queer Theory and the often times precarious nature of working with Queer Theory in education. One issue that has always interested me was the notion of "ze" and "hir"...pronouns often utilized by individuals who identify as transgendered and/or transsexual. They utilize such pronouns to illustrate that gender is not a simple binary. I think the use of such pronouns is provacative and an "easy" way to think about the non-binary "reality" gender. I wonder however if such a move is problematic. Years ago, Feminists illustrated the universal status of "he" in language. "He" was the assumed pronoun to utilize when gender was unknown, it was unmarked. Nowadays, any "PC" person will recognize this and use "he or she," "he/she," or "s/he" or some or some other variation in both spoken text and written text. With this move, the way we spoke and wrote recognized the gendered nature of our lives and theroetically did not leave anyone out...yet the concept of adding "she" to text (written and spoken) re-iterated the binary notion of gender - showing that there are two "genders" that need to be recognized. Will simply broadening this to include "ze" and "hir" break down the binary - which a third term would obviously do since "bi" implies only two - but in the process create a new system that only recognizes "three" genders...asking those who identify with the "ze" pronoun to provide "proof" or evidence of their "third gendered nature"? Is it a step in the right direction perhaps...much like adding "she" to the way we wrote and spoke made the female visible? As an instructor would my disruption of the simple "binary" by including "ze" in my spoken and written text cause my students to question gender more? Or is it a fruitless endeavor to assume that a pronoun can capture the plethora of "genders" that exist...would creating a pronoun create a loss in what was? Could language ever capture the entirety of what it signifies for even "he" and "she" fail to display the complexity of gender within what is supposedly signified through those two terms? Would my disruption just re-establish gender stability except have another static identity included?