By Anna Jaffray
Residents and institutions of Sweden have begun mainstreaming a new, gender-neutral pronoun which was added to the country’s National Encyclopedia this week. The pronoun “hen” is deemed to be used in general conversation, as a singular version of the English usage of “they,” or for those who identify with neither “hon” nor “han,” the Swedish “he” and “she”.
Although “hen” was introduced in Sweden decades ago by a Swedish linguist, the neutral pro-noun is gaining fast traction in the Nordic country through increased usage in schools, children’s books and the National Encyclopedia.
Sweden has become one of the most progressive nations in the world, according to care2.com, in terms of gender neutrality. With the most women in the workplace, multiple co-ed gaming events and gender neutral shopping area, Sweden also has a preschool which is working to eliminate gender. However, Sweden still regulates children's’ names with only 170 names slotted as unisex.
Activists and concerned allies all over the world are attempting to grapple with gender neutrality, language, and categorization of gender. Australia now has a third “indeterminate” option for gender in their passport system, while ancient Greek and Latin languages have always contained a gender neutral pronoun.
What started in Sweden in the 1960s with the introduction of “hen” has also begun in the United States. Teenagers, Gay-Straight Alliances, activists and LGBT individuals everywhere have begun to recognize the use of “Ze,” “Hir,” and other pronouns as their “preferred gender pronouns.”
Other terms such as “polyamorous,” “bi-curious,” and “wiggly” have begun to permeate youth identities.