Politics & Policy

University Warns Professors That Their Students’ Genders May Change Over Time

Pittsburgh’s “Cathedral of Learning”
This information was part of the University of Pittsburgh's "Gender-Inclusive/Non-Sexist Language Guidelines and Resources" document.

The University of Pittsburgh has released a set of “Gender-Inclusive/Non-Sexist Language Guidelines and Resources” informing instructors how they should be talking in their classrooms in order to not offend anyone.

One suggestion is to ask “students to write down preferred names and pronouns” on the first day while also keeping in mind that just because a student wanted a particular pronoun on the first day doesn’t mean that he/she/they/zi/zie will always want that pronoun because “a person’s gender identity may change over time.”

“Zi” and “zie” are provided as examples of gender-neutral pronouns in the document, as well as the singular use of the pronoun “they.”

Oh, and in case you’re one of those people who thinks that using “they” to refer to a single person is grammatically incorrect, the guidelines clarify that thinking this way is actually wrong:

“By this argument we should bring back singular thou/thee/thine!” it exclaims.

To make sure professors are prepared, the document provides a small sampling of the certainly infinite number of genders that are out there:

#related#“Some genders include masculine, feminine, genderqueer (queer, fluid, or non-binary gender identity), agender (neutral or non-existent gender identity and/or expression), cisgender (gender identity and/or expression that is “cis,” or “on the same side as,” assigned sex category), and transgender (any gender identity or expression that differs from sex assignment). Trans refers to a range of non-cisgender identities, including transgender and transsexual.”

It also suggests avoiding “sexist” language such as “freshman” and “congressman,” and “including the Gender-Inclusive/Non-Sexist Language Syllabi Statement in your syllabi to let students know that you want your classroom to be an inclusive space.”

Although the document does clarify that the guidelines are by no means mandatory, it also compares not following them to insulting a stranger’s outfit:

“You are free to not use this language . . . you are also free to criticize the way someone is dressed even if you don’t know them, but then most people would probably think you are rude,” it states.

“Isn’t it nice to have a little guidance about how to be considerate and polite?” it asks.

The guidelines were co-authored by linguistics professor Scott F. Kiesling and visiting English/Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies lecturer Julie Beaulieu.

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