Oxford University students must refer to each other with the gender-neutral pronoun “ze” instead of “he” or “she,” according to a new handout from the college’s student union officers.
The decision is intended to diminish discrimination and prevent transgender students from being offended by the use of incorrect pronouns, according to the Independent. Deliberately choosing to use the undesired pronoun for a transgender person is an offense in the new code.
“This issue isn’t about being [politically correct],” Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and LGBT activist, told the U.K.’s Times. “It’s about respecting people’s right to define themselves as neither male nor female.”
The plan at Oxford is to see the gender-neutral pronoun “ze” not only used socially, but also adopted in college lectures and seminars.
And according to the Times, Cambridge University is moving in the same direction.
“Events start with a speaker introducing themselves using a gender neutral pronoun. It’s part of a drive to make the union intersectional,” Sophie Buck, welfare officer at Cambridge’s student union, told the newspaper.
The University of Tennessee faced intense backlash last year for introducing gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “xe” into its college lexicon. The Knoxville campus walked back the proposal after garnering widespread media coverage and being criticized by conservative politicians, who called the pronoun policy “political correctness run amok.”
Many reports suggested the university was banning the use of the traditional pronouns “he” and “she,” but Tennessee rejected that claim in a statement, saying, “There is no mandate or official policy to use the language. Neither the university nor the Office for Diversity and Inclusion has the power or authority to mandate use of gender-inclusive pronouns.”