UK Boarding Schools to Update Transgender Pronoun Use

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Official new guidance in the United Kingdom is asking teachers to use the pronoun “zie” in place of “he” or “she” when referring to transgender students in order to avoid any offense.

The Boarding Schools Association is asking teachers to learn the “new language” that is part of the new guidance which is looking at “queering the education system.”

The advice looks to help teachers make their way through the “minefield” associated with gender identity by referring to male and female students through a pronoun that avoids associating children and young adults with a specific gender.  As such, teachers will now refer to children by their pronoun of choice, which includes they or zie, reports Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph.

Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the Boarding Schools’ Association, said the guidelines are meant to offer help to teachers who may be confused as to how to handle such situations.

“Teachers, heads and deputy heads were asking questions about these issues and they felt they were in the dark on what was politically correct and had fears of causing offence as young people largely between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioning their gender identity.  There was a strong understanding when it more obvious and direct when someone came out as gay but not in the area where young people were asking ‘who am I?’ to a member of staff and these were questions they had not been asked before,” he said.

In a similar instance, teachers at a leading girls’ school in Britain were asked to stop referring to students as “girls” or “young women,” as it may offend students who are questioning their gender identity.  Instead, head teachers at the Girls’ Schools Association were told to use terms such as “pupils” or “students” in order to avoid confusion.

The advice went on to suggest the implementation of unisex bathrooms, writes Keiligh Baker for The Daily Mail.

Caroline Jordan, President of the GSA and headmistress at Headington School in Oxfordshire, supports the guidelines, stating that it affects a large number of young people who are questioning their gender identity, adding that the number is growing each year.

Jordan suggested that staff members use the term “students” or “pupils” in place of “girls” during assemblies.  She added that she did not want people to believe that girls’ or boys’ schools considered there to be only one way to be a boy or girl.  She went on to say that her view of the situation is that the use of gender-neutral language is a good thing.

Gendered Intelligence offered the advice to the GSA, whose chairman, Jay Stewart, claims the phrase “young ladies” is both “sexist” and “transphobic.”  He added that in all, about 1% of the population is transgender and the new unisex terms will help them not to feel like “freaks.”

Schools such as Brighton College and a total of 80 state schools have already implemented gender-neutral uniforms for their students.  Trousers and skirts have been introduced for students up to age 16, allowing girls to wear a tweed blazer, tie and trousers, while boys will have the option to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck blouse.