Canada: Vancouver School Board endorses gender-neutral pronouns

Gender Neutral sign

The Vancouver School Board has directed teachers to use gender-neutral pronouns for students who do not wish to identify as male or female.

The new policy, which the school board adopted on Monday, directed teachers to use pronouns ‘they/their’ in place of ‘he/his’ where requested, as well as to accept potential neologisms including ‘xe/xir’.

Mike Lombardi, a Vancouver School Board trustee, told the National Post: “What we’re looking for is to go with students’ preference.

“We want to make students feel comfortable, we want to make them feel safe and included.

“What we’re basically saying is that students should be able to have some choice in what kind of pronoun they use to describe them.”

He added the goal was “to find appropriate language that would best reflect the situation that students find themselves in.”

Lisa Pedrini, VSB’s manager of social responsibility and diversity, said “it does require one to be quite mindful”, but added it would only apply to “a very tiny tiny minority” of students.

Pedrini compared it to the cultural shift to the use of “firefighter” instead of “fireman”, noting: “Now those words are in common usage and if you hear ‘policeman’ it sticks out.

“I think we’re in the same place with this language.”

In April, the US Department of Education ruled that Title IX, an anti-sexism provision from the 1970s, could be used to protect trans students from discrimination for the first time.