Since objects and people are gendered greatly in the Spanish language, are there words for people who identify as non-binary or gender-queer etc.? Even ‘they’ is gendered.
Ah the issue of gendered nouns in Romance languages! I’ve always found the evolution of language as a fascinating topic, and one that I’ll be honest, I wish I would have learned more about in college.
I can completely understand how one, learning a Romance language in the 21st Century, would see Spanish, French or Italian as hopelessly outdated with our current gender and sexual politics. However, it must be noted that languages change, and that the entire non-binary/gender-queer issue for pronouns has not been a major factor in Western vernacular until very recently.
Language politics are also very different depending upon the cultures that use the language. English for instance is odd among Western languages in that it does not have a single governing body that makes the rules and guards linguistic heritage. French, Italian and Spanish all do. Because of this there is a constant push and pull effect within the words themselves between the officially sanctioned language as it stands, and the everyday use. This manifested famously in French regarding gender politics when Belgium, Canada and Switzerland began officially using female titles for women whom held certain jobs, while the Académie Françise, who regulate the language specifically forbade it.
English though as well has had some issues with being politically correct in language as of late regarding making our largely gender-less language even more so. In journalism classes while I was in college for instance we were instructed to use the plural form of pronoun (they) for a singular person of undetermined gender as opposed to assuming male or female. An example: “A person on foot was hit by a train yesterday at rush hour. Their identity is yet to be released, and hospital officials list them in critical condition.” Older rules of American English would not have accepted this because of subject number agreement issues, instead using the default of masculine (his and him in this case).
Even more interestingly, English itself used to have a gendered noun structure. It’s a matter of debate as to why this changed to the current largely genderless system, but as it happened between the 12th and 13th centuries, it wasn’t at all to be more inclusive of the rights and respects afforded to women and gender fluidity. The prevailing theory currently is that the Viking conquest of Britain prompted conflicts of gendered nouns among bilingual people and Old English adapted by dropping gendered nouns for objects not specifically referring to people or animals in most cases.