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Oxford University students 'told to use gender neutral pronoun ze'

Student union officials hope use of gender neutral pronouns will expand to seminars and lecture theatres

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Monday 12 December 2016 16:21 GMT
Oxford University Student Union said it hoped the move would reduce discrimination on campus
Oxford University Student Union said it hoped the move would reduce discrimination on campus (Getty)

Oxford University students have been urged to refer to each other using gender neutral pronouns such as “ze” instead of “he” or “she”, it has been reported. (*See update below.)

A leaflet distributed by the student union reportedly said they hoped the move would prevent transgender students feeling offended by the use of incorrect pronouns and cut down on discrimination.

Deliberately using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is an offence under the university’s behaviour code.

It is hoped the use of “ze” may also be used in lectures and seminars, as well as socially.

Human rights campaigner and LGBT activist Peter Tatchell welcomed the notion, adding: “This issue isn’t about being PC”.

He told The Times: “It’s about respecting people’s right to define themselves as neither male nor female.”

Gender neutral pronouns such as “xe” and “ze” have already been brought into common use at the University of Tennessee, US, and this summer the Boarding Schools’ Association issued guidance for teachers to address transgender pupils as “zie” to avoid offence.

Cambridge University is moving in the same direction, The Times reported.

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Sophie Buck, welfare officer at its students’ union, said: “Events start with a speaker introducing themselves using a gender neutral pronoun. It’s part of a drive to make the union intersectional.”

* Update: The Independent published a follow-up article on Tuesday 13 December following a statement from the Oxford University Student Union which indicated that claims it had told students to use gender-neutral pronouns were inaccurate. The follow-up report can be seen here.

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