Have you been practicing recently? Not restraint and certainly not your oboe. This is all about pronouns. College has evolved significantly. Many might argue that it's the new Pre-K: University students are being educated in ways that were previously considered to be insufficiently sophisticated. Perhaps there's an argument for returning to the fundamentals.
Thus, it is no surprise that the University of North Carolina has been reportedly instructing students to “practice with pronouns.” The school is at the cutting edge of technology. Its Office of Provost's Diversity and Inclusion page announced the following: “UNC-Chapel Hill strives to ensure gender equity across all platforms, including hiring practices, lactation/family support, and gender-inclusive language.”
Resources are available, such as an inventory of “lactation locations” and a tutorial on pronouns. “You can't always know what someone's pronouns are by looking,” the text reads.
Not sure which pronouns you should make use of? Making sure you are using the correct pronouns is among the most fundamental ways to show respect for gender identity and individuality. It's an intriguing idea. Since pronouns aren't typically employed in the presence of someone else, UNC believes you must refer to everyone as they prefer even when they're not in the room.
The site provides a graph that shows “Gender Non-Specific Pronouns.” Acceptable subject pronouns include: She, He, They, Ze, Xe, Ze. Object pronouns: Her, Him, They're, Hir, Xem, Zir. Possessive pronouns: Hers, His, Theirs, Hirs, Xyrs, Zirs.
A Google search for a particular UNC “Gender Non-Specific Pronouns” page results in the page's link apologizing. “Sorry, but the page you were trying to view does not exist.” However, Campus Reform reports that the page previously directed students to PracticeWithPronouns.com. That site–which is also credited on the Diversity and Inclusion page– lets users choose from a set of “neo pronouns,” including “ve/ver/vis/vis/verself,” “ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself,” and “ey/em/eir/eirs/emself.” According to Practice With Pronouns, these are “commonly used.” If you've picked an appropriate set of pronouns or entered something that is unique, the website will generate an example sentence. “Fill in the blanks with your guesses, then click ‘Check Answers,'” it directs. A 100-percent correct effort: “After eir period of ominous silence, all ey did was attack savagely, dragging many citizens with em into the tent over the vacant lot.” Apparently, that’s the most modern method of communicating with your college friends.
You get to talk with cool-shoes Horacio who informs you that vis pronouns are of the “ve” variety–with the exception of ve substitutes “nem” for “ver,” “eir” for “vis,” “nirs” for the other “vis,” and “bunself” to mean “verself.” You note the previous points and then put aside some time in your dorm to learn online. In 45 minutes, you've laid out a rough outline of the way you're expected to communicate if you do make reference to the word “nem.” But you and Horacio never speak again.
When you get home from the Christmas holiday, you visit your friend. You'd like to purchase a pair of sneakers similar to the ones worn by a man you once met. In advance of delivering this information the previous evening, you had told your family members to go to the movie without you. You, with the help of Practice With Pronouns, needed to finish your homework. You tell your friend to remain silent while you reread your notes from the night before. In just 10 minutes, you're ready to demonstrate respect: “There was some human at school who had shoes like the ones I want. Ve told me ve got them at a mall by eir internship. I was going to ask nem which store, but I got distracted because I had to log nirs pronouns into the 500-page journal I carry to list all the humans I might ever reference pronouns. Ve would've probably taken me to the store bunself, but I'll never know.”
A decade later, you're still thinking about how you came to get those exact shoes. You're eager to share this tale with your nurse. You feel fortunate that you're armed with a laptop that holds all of your notes on pronouns from the past seven decades. The bedpan will be changed on Thursday when you'll be able to tell zir that you and your 90-year-old brain have discovered the best way to communicate with zir.
So is American life from now on. It's possible that we're not in an era of unity, but at least for those who have been educated in college, we're definitely becoming more advanced.