Colleges using gender-neutral pronouns to be inclusive to transgender students

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A number of colleges now offer gender neutral pronoun options to acknowledge transgender students. Harvard University has become one of the most recent to embrace words like ze and hir (pronounced 'zee' and 'hear,' respectively).

"The classification of students by one of two genders if a student doesn't identify by that gender, its a way of making that student continue to feel like an outsider," said Chad Thomas, professor of English with a specialization in gender studies at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Research shows that many transgender people attempt suicide due to a lack of acceptance. Thomas says it's an easy way to show support to a subculture often subject to bullying.

"I think there will be backlash, but thats because change is hard," said Thomas. "If you're in that 99-percentile that identify as' he or she' then of course its going to be alien to you that someones inside might not match their outside."

At the beginning of almost every school year, a teacher would ask a student if they have any other names or nicknames they would rather be called. It's the same concept, and it's not a new one either.

As far back as 2009, schools like the University of Vermont have been allowing students to pick their gender pronouns, at a critical stage in one's life to feel accepted.

"It's an incredibly significant age because we are training them to be adults, better human beings," said Thomas.

He went on to say that it is likely to become more usual than unusual in coming years as the nation and world become more accepting of differing sexual identities and orientations.

Closer to home, the University of Tennessee pushed students to use gender-neutral language this year.

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