Wired: Actually, Gender-Neutral Pronouns Can Change a Culture
Using the example of how the gender-neutral word “hen” changed perception and culture in Sweden, the authors of the article go through various issue that exist with making gender-neutral language the default.
As I read the article, I realised how much the use of the singular they/them is ingrained in my vocabulary at this point, thanks to amazing friends and colleagues who helped me educate myself on this topic.
It also made me wonder how I handle this in German, my native language.
I speak English every day and for a living. It makes using gender-neutral pronouns and more inclusive language easy; with the exception of androcentric words, gender typically doesn’t seep into the nouns themselves, unlike in German.
Thinking about this a bit, I tend to avoid pronouns in writing and speaking whenever possible but it can lead to less elegant and sometimes downright unwieldy sentences.
It led me down a rabbit hole filled with lots of variations of the same question on popular question/answer platforms “Wie kann they/them im Deutschen erwendet werden?” (How can they/them be used in German?) and eventually to a section in a German Wikipedia article on the topic, which was pretty good as an overview: Nicht-binäre Geschlechtsindentität - Das singuläre Pronomen “they”
The recommendations from various institutions and entities listed there are pretty good starting points but something about the use of neopronouns in German doesn’t yet manage to penetrate my skull. In the latest season of Star Trek: Discovery, there’s an amazing non-binary character and in the English audio, they/them is used. In German the translators went with “dey/dem” and it felt jarring to my ears. Illi Anna Heger published a broader discussion of this topic, highlighting various examples of German translations of they/them in German synchronisations and subtitles. Really worth a read.
I’m intensely curious which pronouns are going to become established norm for gender-neutral language in German and Im glad to see that even large organisations are starting to attempt using more inclusive language in their daily business. It would definitely be nice for an institution like the Duden (think: Merriam Webster in Germany) to throw their weight behind one of the neopronouns.