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Tractor says "my PGPs are zee, zim and zer."

July 18, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
How would you react if someone came up to you and introduced himself in this way: "I'm Russell Lasdon and I use he/him/his pronouns."

That's how a high school student in New York state introduced himself to National Public Radio reporter Margot Adler this spring. The boy and his classmates were attempting to be "allies" of transgender people who don't identify as the sex they were born as. Adler reported on Tuesday (the transcript can be found at ( about what she says is a growing movement on high school and college campuses against gender categories.

Some people have even created their own gender pronouns, after having decided that neither the male or female gender pronouns are the right fit. "We encountered high school students who said, I want you to call me Tractor and use pronouns like zee, zim and zer. And, in fact, I reject the gender binary as an oppressive move by the dominant culture," Lynn Walker, director of Housing Works, an organization that provides housing to people with HIV, told Adler.

A significant percentage of the people the organization serves are transgender, according to the NPR piece. Some of the people served identify one day as a man, one day as a woman, and the next as neither.

Adler also reported on the reaction to a Jewish women's conference, to which anyone who identifies as a woman was invited. One girl told the director that she almost didn't go to the conference because it had "women" in the title. She apparently didn't think anyone should be boxed in by words like "women" and "men."

I like to think of myself as a fairly progressive person on issues like this one. I am certainly sympathetic to people who feel that they are female in a male body or male in a female body and think they ought to have equal access to housing and employment and be able to have relationships as they choose.

However, I'm a stickler for language. When I was in college, people who wanted to change the word "women" to "womyn" annoyed the heck out of me. Gender pronouns like "zee, zim and zer" sound like they belong in a B science fiction monster movie.

"Womyn" didn't catch on, except in certain rarified circles of academia, and I suspect "zee, zim and zer" won't either. On the other hand, I could be wrong. At some point in the future, all co-workers of a transgender person who identifies as neither a man or a woman could be required to refer to "zee, zim and zer" under pain of the American Disabilities Act.

What do you think?


Article Comments



Jul-19-13 10:10 AM


...there's no such thing as "men and women are just the same."

Vive la difference.


Jul-19-13 10:09 AM

Andrea, when I first saw this blog title, I thought you'd be reporting on a new CaseIH behemoth that can "speak" information about its GPS location or something.

Little did I know: "...zee, zim and zer under pain of the American Disabilities Act."

It is amazing to me that many people find it difficult to accept the package given to them in the beginning. I'd hate to spend my life being confused: a woman yesterday, a man today, perhaps both tomorrow.

Side story: I was raised to be a feminist and I took the dogma literally: "you can do anything a man can." While trying to live that out, I crashed headlong into the stereotypes of traditional male/female behaviors and philosophies.

For example, "tom cat" behavior in a man is nothing much, just getting a few notches in the belt, whereas the same thing in a woman allows others, especially men, to bring out the derogatory terms.

No, Virginia, there's no such thing as "men and women


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