The Forms of Androgyny

It’s hard to talk about androgynous people. To clarify: this isn’t because of any social taboos or prejudice, but something more literal — people who don’t identify as male nor as female are actually difficult to discuss, because English doesn’t allow people to identify as gender neutral. All of our third-person pronouns are categorised by the male-female binary. People are either “he” or “she”. You can’t use “it” — it sounds dehumanising — and “they” can be grammatically awkward.

One way of getting around this is to adopt a new pronoun altogether. In March, Sydney-based Norrie (who has chosen to abandon the family name May-Welby) introduced many of us to “zie”, in place of “he” or “she”. Norrie — who began life as a male-to-female transsexual, before opting out of male-female distinctions — made headlines when the Sydney Morning Herald declared “hir” (not him, not her) the first person recognised by the state as neuter.

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