Swedish Gender Neutral Pronoun "Hen" Makes Its Way Into The Official Dictionary, And That's A Big Win

ByMehak Anwar

In 2012, the Swedish National Encyclopedia took an important step towards gender equality and incorporated a gender neutral pronoun to promote equality and make society more inclusive; now, in 2015, Sweden's gender neutral pronoun, "hen," has officially made its way into the official dictionary of the Swedish language! Hooray! It's no surprise, though, seeing as Sweden ranks as the fourth best country for gender inclusion, right behind Iceland, Finland, and Norway.

In Swedish, "han" is the standard masculine pronoun, while "hon" is the feminine one. "Hen," however, will allow people who don't identify themselves on the gender binary to claim a pronoun that describes them more accurately. Cosmo writes that the proper times to use "hen" include when a person is transgender, when you don't know the person's gender, or when gender identity is irrelevant to what you're talking about.

Though we don't have an official dictionary version of a gender neutral word in English to replace "he" and "she," many people use or subscribe to "they/them/theirs" as a preferred pronoun (yes, people who use it area aware it's technically not correct grammar and no, it doesn't matter, because identity politics are far more important than arbitrary grammar laws). Additionally, people have started to use "zi/zir" pronouns to connote the same thing.

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About a quarter of the world's languages are gendered, whether it's through pronouns or nouns. For example, while English has "he" and "she" for people, Spanish is even more gendered, with all nouns having an "el" or "la" in front of them to let you know if they're male or female. Some completely genderless languages include Persian, Japanese, Turkish, and Hungarian, making binary sorting less of an issue and eliminating issues that come with assuming people's gender identities. While it's not particularly feasible to eliminate gendered language from entire languages and cultures, it certainly is possible to change language in a way that's more inclusive. Who needs all those restrictions, anyway?