Study: gender-neutral pronouns boost positive attitude towards queer people & women

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More than 100 failures litter the battleground that is the hunt for an English gender-neutral singular pronoun. From thon, ip and hiser to hem, ons and lers, the discarded terms have piled up since the mid-19th century.

But the quest for the right word is not in vain, a new study suggests. Using a gender-neutral pronoun, it found, reduces mental biases that favour men, and boosts positive feelings towards women and LGBT people.

The finding marks an easy win, the researchers believe, and shows how a minor change in language can help chip away at long-standing gender inequities.

“Let’s assume there are societies that generally agree on being more inclusive of women and LGBT individuals, and there are more than a few,” said Efrén Pérez at the University of California in Los Angeles. “Our findings suggest that the words we choose to use can matter in getting us a little bit closer toward reaching that ideal.”

Pérez and Margit Tavits at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, explored the impact of gender-neutral pronouns on the views of more than 3,000 Swedes. In 2015, the country adopted the gender-neutral term “hen” to sit alongside the existing terms “hon” and “han”, the English equivalents of “she” and “he”.

Read on…

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