Non-binary speakers seek gender-neutral assistance

Due to the language's gendered nature, non-binary Welsh speakers claim that they are unable to express their identities in the language.

They want to see more language that includes LGBTQ+ people used and recognized.

Welsh, like many other European languages, has gendered nouns that change in their mutations. Professions also typically have gendered nouns.

Dysgu Cymraeg, a government-funded Welsh learning program, has modified one tutor’s instruction.

Tomos Hopkins said that it has increased acceptance of non-binary students, but he also said that Welsh speakers who speak Welsh as their first language are less likely to encounter gender-neutral Welsh.

The singular gender-neutral pronoun “nhw” is utilized by many non-binary people.

In many words, plural mutations can be used to talk about a person in the singular, removing gendered mutations.

However, many occupations are gendered; for example, the term “athro” refers to a male teacher while “athrawes” refers to a female teacher.

According to Tomos Hopkins, the Welsh language must develop and be inclusive.

According to Rowan Gulliver, a teacher in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who is 22 years old, people who use the word “nhw” can sometimes be hard to understand because Welsh speakers are unfamiliar with LGBTQ+ terms.

Rowan, who uses the non-binary Mx prefix and the pronouns “they” and “them,” and works in a school that speaks Welsh, had to come out to colleagues in English because they didn’t think they could be understood in Welsh and didn’t have the vocabulary to do so.

They stated, “You ought to be able to talk about your identity and other people in your first language.” When you have to say it in English, it feels like a tiny part of you is dying.”

They went on to say, “It just makes you feel like… you’re some strange thing that doesn’t belong or have value in society.”

Despite its existence, the vocabulary is not widely used.

According to Mx Gulliver, people who speak Welsh will understand if terms are explained, but non-binary people lack the confidence to discuss their identity due to the language barrier.

They continued, “It’s like you have to come out twice.”

Stonewall Cymru has an inclusive Welsh glossary to fill in the gaps left by dictionaries by omitting many words that would describe LGBTQ+ identities.

Mx. Gulliver elaborated, “There needs to be more awareness, more representation in the media like S4C, and it needs to be taught in schools.”

There are more opportunities for learners of Welsh to acquire non-gendered speaking styles.

Ems Rixon, 38, of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, said, “The gendered nature of the language makes me feel excluded and not sure where I fit in.”

“When I say that I don’t want to say one gender or another, I often feel like I’m making things worse in my speaking classes.”

According to Mx Rixon, non-binary people were frequently instructed to use the plural, and when they did, they were also corrected by others.

Mr. Hopkins, Mx Rixon’s Welsh teacher, changed the lesson material for new students to include non-binary identities.

Ems Rixon talked about how important representation is.

Dysgu Cymraeg’s Learn Welsh textbooks are also updated every two years, allowing them to adapt the curriculum to be more inclusive.

Mr. Hopkins stated that increasing media representation is one way to increase pronoun knowledge.

He added, “I think it is definitely getting better with programs like S4C Hansh.” They are doing an excellent job of displaying a lot of content about queer identity, in my opinion.

“The Welsh language dies if it is stuck in a box that stays with the old ways. It is very important that it evolves and is inclusive.

“Everything gets a new word every day. As a result of the pandemic, new terms needed to be used to describe technology, so this is a natural progression for the language.”

According to Dr. Gareth Evans Jones of Bangor University, who is editing the first Welsh-language anthology of LGBTQ+ rights, LGBTQ+ words have been coined in Welsh for several years but have not yet become common usage.

He stated, “I think trying to de-gender the language would be difficult because Welsh is so deeply rooted in gendered terms.” However, it is certainly possible that newer terms were invented as alternatives to these gendered terms.”

Cymuned Cymraeg, a twice-weekly Welsh speaking group in east Carmarthenshire and Powys, was established by Ella Peel, the founder of Heart of Wales LGBTQ+, to assist other non-binary Welsh speakers.

Ms. Peel stated, “The purpose of language is to understand each other and to communicate; therefore, when you say words and people don’t understand you, that’s when language breaks down.”

The gender-neutral ending “-ydd” is used in class. This is already used for some jobs, like commissioner, which has no gender and is called “comisiynydd” in Welsh.

Mx Rixon continued, ” It’s so important to represent. You can only be what you observe and discuss.”