Sweden’s Contribution to Gender-Neutral Language

A new article in The Nation highlights the Swedish language contribution to gender-neutral pronouns. In addition to hon (she) and han (he), some Swedes are using hen to indicate a third, neutral gender. While the term has been around since the 1960s, it gained more attention recently when Jesper Lundqvist,  author of the children’s book “Kivi och Monsterhund” (Kivi and the Monster Dog), used hen throughout rather than specifying gender. While the term is not widely used (yet?) in Sweden, it appeals to me with its simplicity. The alternative I have seen most commonly used is zie, which has possessive (zir) and plural (zim) forms as well. It has never been well integrated in to English and, like hen in Sweden, appears relegated to transgender and academic circles.



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