3 years ago in San Francisco, I decided to gain some knowledge on non-violent conflict resolution. As I sit in a room crowded with a San Francisco diverse audience, the organizer asks that we introduce ourselves: state your name, your organization and the pronoun you wish to be addressed with. “Julia*, National Center for Lesbian Rights, she”, “Tim*, just curious, they or ze”.
They or ze ? That is how I first heard the neutral pronoun as well as the first and last time I had to say “I am a she”. The whole exercise seemed a bit useless as there were over 50 participants and the one-hour training session would not be interactive at all. Another way for San Francisco to prove how liberal it is…
I understand the need for the language to evolve with society and if I had to pick I would choose ze over they. For an English-learner, a sentence such as “they says…” goes against all the grammar rules I was taught. Ze is interesting as it sounds close to he or she. I wonder how the whole debate will unravel when the pronoun revolution hits France, a country regularly struggling with what we call inclusive writing. Would we pick eul, ul, alle, olle, … ?
*Of course, all the names are fictional.