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December 23, 2021

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As a French speaker, I can tell you that it is not possible to have a genderless pronoun in that language. That's because all nouns and pronouns must be either masculine or feminine. They cannot be both and they cannot be neither.

This reality is probably at the root of French resistance to grammatical "gender-neutrality". It becomes more obvious whenever you qualify nouns and pronouns with adjectives. So if you insist on (for the sake of argument) "tchie" as your boutique pronoun, other French speakers are still faced with using either the masculine or feminine gender in referring to you ("tchie est beau" or "tchie est belle"). Absent further information, the masculine will be the default.

It's useful to remember that while masculine nouns/pronouns can mean both male and female persons, so can feminine nouns/pronouns: "personne" and "victime" are both feminine, regardless of whether the person or victim in question is male or female.

JJM: I have forwarded your comment to Dr. Grammar, the source of the link and the author of “What’s Your Pronoun?” Maybe he’ll reply here.

Genderless pronouns remain controversial in all the languages where they have been introduced--even Swedish, when 'hen' is increasingly common. As for French, yes, 'iel' and its variants remain rare and spark arguments, but usage continues to grow despite resistance, suggesting that at least some speakers are trying to find an inclusive alternative. Interestingly, the French Academy Dictionary does approve of many new feminine job titles replacing the generic masculine terms. These do, however, remain binary.

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