Temple University Faculty Members Are Trying to Erase the ‘Gender Binary System’

Remake Pronouns 101

Some faculty members at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are looking to “unlearn” the “gender binary system.”

The gender binary refers to the traditional classification of human gender into two distinct categories, masculine and feminine. Some professors at Temple University are looking to erase this “outdated” classification altogether.

Heath Fogg Davis, a professor of political science at Temple, argues in his new book that he wants to live in a world in which everyone uses a “gender-neutral pronoun.”

“My argument in the book is not that we try to live beyond gender, but [to minimize] the formal use of gender and gender policies because of the ways it infringes on people’s individual autonomy,” Davis said. “In an ideal world, I wish that we all used a gender-neutral pronoun.”

Davis asks all of his students to write down their personal pronouns on a note card so that he avoids misgendering anyone.

“We’ll see how it works,” Davis said. “I want to see what the students’ feedback is, but I think that it can be helpful if everybody does it. Then it becomes kind of a universal design, and people don’t feel singled out.”

Charlie Catacalos, a Temple sophomore and the treasurer of Temple’s Queer People of Color group, says that he often asks professors to write down their pronouns so that they don’t have to announce it in front of the class.

“I’ve also had professors ask [students] to write down their names and pronouns,” Catacalos said. “I liked that because you don’t have to just say it in front of the whole class, but the professor will know, and they can even subtly correct people.”

Nu’Rodney Prad, the director of student engagement for Temple’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership, argues that the “binary” system of gender is merely a construction of society.

“We want folks to be educated and to understand the meaning behind it,” Prad said. “The binary system of gender and sex has been just socialized into our society. It’s the fabric of how we think. It’s how we write our papers. [Safe Zone is] kind of like unlearning all this stuff we’ve learned about the binary system.”

Temple University, of course, is only one of many universities across the United States that wants to reshape the way that Americans understand gender. In December, Breitbart News reported on a Bard College document that encouraged students to use “Ze, Zim, Zir” pronouns.

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