It used to be that your gender was determined through biological means. Your sex was a product of whether or not you had a Y-chromosome. You were either declared a boy or girl at birth. As far as I can tell, this is the way it was for several millennia.
That, of course, was a tad too simple for twenty-first century schizoid man (if you get that obscure reference, you’re older and hipper than I suspected you were). These days, your gender is no longer a mere biological accident. It’s become a cultural or sociological construct. Certainly, we all like choices. This one, however, is way past this old dog’s capacity to maneuver the maze of modern living.
Looking for Justice
Now, having the option of being male, female, or a plethora of other possibilities, we need a new vocabulary to help us identify ourselves. If you choose one of the non-traditional selections, “he” or “she” doesn’t always cut it. “He” always worked pretty well for males, and “she” was actually quite a handy term. But what if you identify as one of the LGBTQ-CSNY crowd? The whole he-she thing doesn’t always do you justice.
Never fear. Linguists have ridden in on their white stallions to save the day. They have coined a new, third, catchall pronoun that will fill the void that has been created by our new, seemingly endless alternatives. The new pronoun, as I understand it, is “ze.”
I never thought much about it until last week. I only ever saw it in print. Then, recently, I heard a radio announcer use the phrase, “he, she, or ze.” He pronounced it like the letter—zee. Hearing it spoken out loud hit me like a two-by-four upside the head.
Like many of you, I suppose, I’ve had many nicknames over the years—Zuch, Deacon, Preacher, Rookie, Davey, etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera. During seven decades on this earth, one tends to collect these things. One of those nicknames, however, has stuck and lasted about fifty years now. That nickname is “Z.” So, you can imagine how my ears perked up when I heard that phrase, “he, she, or ze.”
Earning the Man-Card
It almost seems as if people have been preparing me for the moment when I could enter into the third category of human being. This is a bit disconcerting considering the pains through which many of us put ourselves as we attempted to earn our “man-cards.” I’m just not ready to give that up. I’ve worked too hard to get it. Truth-be-told, however, I’m not ready to give up the nickname either. What’s a father to do?
Given that the whole gender thing seems to have a lot of fluidity these days, I suppose I can decide what I am depending on what people I’m with. If I’m with the Z crowd, I can use whatever bathroom I feel like using. If I’m with the Deacon crowd, the choice is considerably narrowed.
Whatever happened to, “Male and female he created them.” Sigh…
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]