Fynn Becker

Dropping the “he”

Rainbow stripes (red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, purple) in the background. Pronouns “they/them” prominently placed black on white in the center.
Title photo by Katie Rainbow on Unsplash.

Until recently my pronouns were they or he. I kept the he for the sake of convenience and because I’m still afraid of fully coming out to everyone. But the he is starting to feel like baggage from a past self that is no longer me. So, effective immediately, my pronouns are they/them.

I have no idea how this will translate to my native language German. As you may be aware, German is a long way off gender neutrality and still doesn’t have a neutral pronoun. While there are ways around the first problem, the missing pronoun is challenging.

But more concerning is the lack of acceptance for gender-neutral language in Germany. Two recent studies show 65 to 75 % of participants reject the usage of gender-neutral language in media outlets. The study conducted by Infratest dimap even shows a decline in acceptance.

The following question has been asked:

What’s your stance on gender-neutral language in the press, radio, TV, and during public events?

A few examples for gender-neutral language in German were given and the participants answered as follows:

2021 2020
Approval 26 % 35 %
Refusal 65 % 56 %
Not specified 9 % 9 %

The second study by Politbarometer came to similar conclusions.

This isn’t a very positive outlook for someone like me who struggles with coming out. My entire identity is based on English because my native language has no words for me. I literally can’t write these blog posts in German because the words necessary don’t exist. There are a few initiatives for “neo pronouns” though, but nothing took hold yet. Let’s hope for a more colorful and diverse future 🏳️‍🌈