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.



Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, PhD, CASA, CSE

One of a handful of global experts on polyamory and the foremost international expert on children in polyamorous families, Dr. Elisabeth Sheff has studied gender and
families of sexual minorities for the last 16 years. Sheff’s television appearances include CNN, and the National Geographic, and she has given more than 20 radio, podcast, print, and television interviews with sources from Radio Slovenia to National Public Radio, the Sunday London Times to the Boston Globe and Newsweek. By emphasizing research methodology and findings in her discussions, Dr. Sheff presents the kind of public intellectualism that encourages audience members to think critically regarding gender, sexualities, and families.

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