Gender correct language leads to controversies


Central Europe


Language is connecting people, but also splitting communities. The same applies for the gender inclusive language. Photo Flickr, Taylor B

The need for gender correct language leads in several countries to questions and controversies. Three examples from Europe.


In Norway, debate around the issue was sparked on Thursday when the Norwegian Broadcasting Council discussed two submitted complaints, newspaper Dagen reported on Thursday. The first complaint came from someone who believed that the gender-neutral pronoun "hen" (literally translated as "it") was increasingly used in the productions of the Broadcasting Council. The other criticism was directed at the word "hen" as a genderless pronoun in a report about a pair of skis found in ice. The reporter referred to the owner of the skis with the pronoun "hen". In the last case, an official apology was made by NRK.

NRK's language director Karoline Riise Kristiansen confirms the increased use of the gender-neutral pronoun. During a council meeting, she explained the NRK guidelines: "We allow the use of "hen" when someone defines themselves that way, but people who refer to themselves as her or she should be referred to according to their preference. There should be editorial assessments behind each case."

Dagen editor in chief, Vebjørn Selbekk, expressed support of these guidelines. "This is a controversial word in many ways, but I hope that this was an enlightening explanation for the complaints."

Former Conservative politician Trude Drevland agreed, stating that the use of "hen" is "a way of being open and inclusive and following the way society is changing."


A Swedish teacher lost her job because she refused to refer to a student with the pronoun "hen". The teacher, Selma Gamaleldin, says she does not want to be forced into trans ideology, the Swedish newspaper Dagen reported last week.

The student's parents in question had requested their child be referred to with the pronoun "hen", but Gamaleldin refused. In reaction, the couple reported the school to the Swedish inspection, claiming that their child had been discriminated against.

The inspection judged discrimination proven but also criticised the school for its handling of the case. It, therefore, demanded action of the educational institute and referred it to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO).

According to the school's spokesperson earlier this autumn, the use of personal pronouns should reasonably "apply as personal circumstances." That means that it is up to the legal guardians of the student to decide about the issue and not up to the teacher.

Gamaleldin now reported to the DO herself because she believes that she is the one who has been subjected to discrimination. "I believe that I will not be forced into trans ideology by being forced to use the term "hen", which in this case has its origins in trans ideology, which means that you can choose your gender based on emotion", she writes in the report, according to the newspaper.

Would it be possible to re-write the Bible? Yes, they have tried so in Germany, in order to publish God's Word in gender-neutral language. Photo Flickr, Ingo Weber


In Germany, the question arose whether the Bible needs to be rewritten in gender-neutral language, Idea wrote last week. What are the pros and cons of such a translation?

Claudia Jansen, professor of the New Testament and theological gender research at Wuppertal / Bethel Church University, works on the Bible in gender correct language. She argues that every generation has to understand the Bible in its language. The first edition of the gender correct Bible was published in 2006, and Jansen argues that since then, "no new translation of the Bible has been able to speak exclusively of "brothers."" She thinks that also the Biblical language should mirror reality and at the same time has transforming power.

According to Jansen, the authors of the gender correct Bible also need to consider including a third gender, next to male and female. "We want to reconsider this with as many people as possible."

On the other hand, Nicola Vollkommer, a teacher at the Free Evangelical School in Reutlingen and author, speaks out against a gender correct Bible. She argues that the Bible already is a very inclusive book. She points out that the Bible writes about "combative women, weeping men, and everything in-between" and that "we would be well-advised not to add anything to this book."

She asserts that a gender correct Bible falsifies the original text. "It invalidates the central statement of the Holy Scriptures: God as Lord and Father."



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