University scraps plans to use gender neutral pronouns after backlash

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

A university has removed advice encouraging the use of gender-neutral pronouns, after a media backlash.

The University of Tennessee had issued advice to tutors, encouraging them to ask students which pronouns they want to be referred to using.

In a web post last month, the uni encouraged tutors not to assume that all students want to be referred to as “he” and “she”  – and to use gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or “ze” where requested.

However, following a backlash from local and national media, the advice has since been pulled down from the university’s website.

After negative publicity, UT President Joe DiPietro told trustees that the references to gender-neutral pronouns will be removed from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion website.

DiPietro said he was “deeply concerned about the attention this matter continues to receive and the harm it has had on the reputation of the University of Tennessee.”

He added that in future, the university will not “publish any campus-wide practice or policy” without prior approval.

The controversy emerged after the advice was published from the director of the university’s Pride Centre, Donna Braquet.

She wrote: “The more we make sharing of pronouns a universal practice, the more inclusive we will be as a campus.

“When our organisational culture shifts to where asking for chosen names and pronouns is the standard practice, it alleviates a heavy burden for persons already marginalised by their gender expression or identity.”

However, anti-LGBT Republicans have hailed the university’s decision to back down.

The Republican Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, Ron Ramsey, told the Tennessean: “Young people should come to Tennessee’s colleges and universities to learn the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy, not absurd liberal propaganda.

“I appreciate President DiPietro making clear this kind of political correctness is not policy at the University of Tennessee.”

Last week the Oxford English Dictionary’s free online version included the title Mx for the first time.

The title Mx is a gender-neutral alternative to Mr and Ms, which has grown in use and popularity – with MPs being sworn into the House of Commons given the option of the gender neutral title for the first time after May’s election.