July 27, 2010 § 12 Comments


I’ve been on vacation a lot lately, but I also have been on tumblr a lot, and a common theme I notice (even among the LGBTQ community) is what is genderqueer? Being as I am genderqueer I would like to explain what it is, in hopes of giving a better understanding.

Genderqueer is a gender, as stated in the name, and is completely dependent upon the person that defines themselves as genderqueer. Think of gender as the social construct that it is, there are “boy” clothes, “girl” clothes, “boy” toys, “girl” toys, “boy” colours, “girl” colours, and many assortments and roles that are subconsciously (or not) assigned to each gender. For those who define themselves as genderqueer, they’re a gender outside of “boy” and “girl”, they are both, neither, or a third gender that isn’t presentable in the current western system.

Being genderqueer is a way of labeling yourself as no label. Personally, I use it to say that I like things and do them because I like to, not because it’s the boy or girl thing to do. Socially speaking, there are very very few people that exclusively occupy one social gender. I use it to say I’m me, not a “boy”, and doing “girl” things doesn’t make me any less me. However, it is completely dependent on the person.

Those that are genderqueer also might have a pronoun preference, it’s rare, but still a possibility, so I’ll quickly brainwash you with English gender-neutral pronouns (pronouns that do not specify a gender)

  • Her/Him – Zir/Zem
  • S/He – Ze
  • Her/His – Zir/Zes
  • Herself/Himself – Zirself/Zemself

What ones you use (Zir/Zem) does not matter, as the idea is that they do not have gender.

If you have any questions on genderqueer I’m more than willing to take any via the comments 🙂


§ 12 Responses to Genderqueer

  • Kitti says:

    One of my friends who is majoring in linguistics thinks all the “developed” languages have gender-neutral pronouns. I wonder when it’ll be completely normal and acceptable to use them in English.

  • Ana Pires says:

    Very interesting, I had wondered what it meant before.

    About the pronouns, are those common where you live? If I used them in a conversation when on an English speaking country, would people understand what I meant and be okay with it, or understand but find it odd, or not understand at all? I’m curious, there’s nothing similar in my own language as far as I know.

    • mirandanyc says:

      The ones I’ve seen most commonly used are zie (she/he), hir (her/his or her/him), and hirself (herself/himself), but those are mostly on feminist and progressive blogs. I live in New York City and run with a fairly progressive crowd, but I’d wager that if I used any of these without presenting background information, almost no one would understand what I meant.

  • Courtney says:

    I tend to use ze and zir. I got my undergraduate degree in English before gender-neutral language took hold, so my brain kind of stutters over things like sie and hir when I’m reading because they look like misspellings to me at first glance. Since ze and zir don’t really look like any other words to me, my brain just glides right over them with no problems. Also, once you move into spoken language, “hir” can lose it’s gender neutrality when your audience hears it as “her.”

  • mousers09 says:

    Yes hir and zie are both other common ones, as was stated I’m not a fan of “hir” because it’s perceived as “her” to those that are not familiar with gender neutral pronouns these are just the ones that are common to the area I live, there’s a whole list

    And yes most modern languages do have a neutral form they can use 🙂 English just hasn’t caught on very fast because we lost our gender neutrality long ago, but it’s just starting to be used again, but it’s not common at all besides in areas

  • mousers09 says:

    *besides in areas that are more progressive (such as college campuses)

  • QuantumTuba says:

    As a fellow genderqueer person, I thank you for this concise definition and description. I run into the question a lot, and it’s good to have a link to reference people to in online discourse on the topic.

  • Sunset says:

    As a practical matter, I find it’s fairly easy in many cases to use “they” and such…not ideal but people get what you mean. Or if I’m feeling perverse I’ll tell people to use the pronoun that is obviously the opposite of my presenting gender…having the obviously vagina-bearing person next to you referred to as “him” at least serves to shake up the person next to you.

    • Grant says:

      I can see that you mean well by shaking things up, but there are two problems with your solution. One, you can only know if someone has a vagina if you’ve slept with them, seen them naked or they told you. Trans men often still have vaginas, but most people can’t tell just from looking at them. Two, by misgendering someone, you would be effectively erasing a key part of that person’s identity. Either way, you could have some seriously pissed off people on your hands.

  • It’s really hard to articulate the reasons I have a problem with this. Because labels are a complicated thing. As people, we like to use them, but we don’t like to have them used on us. I understand “genderqueer” is basically saying “who I am and what I like is not intrinsically tied to my biological sex,” but I’m not convinced that more labels really does anyone any good. I’m also not convinced that making up gender-neutral pronouns does anything at this point while placing more focus on a specific area than is justified by the positive returns of that focus.

    Besides confusion, what does creating gender-neutral pronouns accomplish at this point? Without doing something about the attitudes behind sexism, neutralizing what is possibly one of the least overt or damaging outward signs of a sexually divided society does nothing. And if we did manage to eradicate all of the large, looming, and institutionalized sexist attitudes, would sex-specific pronouns really be that big a deal?

    • mirandanyc says:

      Creating the genderqueer label and gender-neutral pronouns “accomplishes” the validation of some people’s identities. Which is pretty important.

    • katiee93 says:

      How exactly do you propose we talk to and about non-binary gender people without gender neutral pronouns?

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