In this issue, we explore LGBT and queer youth, their thoughts on our community and the ways they are helping to shape our community’s future.

We also profile Charlotte youth Loan Tran, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Phillip O. Berry High School, who attended President Barack Obama’s LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House on June 22.

When we spoke to Tran, we were faced with a situation we’ve not had to deal with before — that the subject of our interview had no preference on which gender pronouns we should use to identify him or her.

In most of our interviews, we ask our subjects the important questions: how they identify their sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, straight, etc.) and how they identify their gender (male, female, transgender, etc.). When we interviewed Tran, we asked the same questions. Regarding gender pronoun usage, Tran told us, “I don’t have a preference.”

In our story on Tran, you’ll notice we use the pronouns “ze,” “hir” and “hirself.” The pronouns are relatively new gender pronoun constructions that aren’t beholden to or weighted down by any gender binary. In English, unfortunately, we have only two ways of identifying people. Each way ties that person to a male or female identity, an option that is less than optimal for some people. Further, other pronouns aren’t appropriate when attempting to describe a single person in a gender-neutral way. The pronoun “it,” for example, dehumanizes the subject and because “they” is plural, it’s use would be grammatically incorrect when referring to an individual.

There are several gender-neutral constructions floating around, and each construction’s use varies. There have been only a few, unsuccessful attempts to create a standard, gender-neutral alternative. However, in an effort to continue our quest to respect all the members of our LGBT and queer communities, and to accurately reflect the realities of those people we interview, qnotes has chosen what we believe is a simple and appropriate gender-neutral pronoun usage. In our article on Tran, and potentially in future articles, you will notice these new pronoun constructions. They are as follows, with pronunciation guides in parentheses:

Subject: He, She – Ze (“zee”)

Object: Him, Her – Hir (“hear”)

Possessive adjective: His, Her – Hir (“hear”)

Possessive pronoun: His, Hers – Hirs (“hears”)

Reflexive: Himself, Herself – Hirself (“hearself”)

Thanks to the Trans Issues Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the gender-neutral pronoun usage guide. You can download it at web.mit.edu/trans/GenderNeutralPronouns.pdf. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.