What's in a pronoun? Non-binary artist writes about use of gendered terms in Romanian language

·1 min read
Alexei Ungurenasu is a Romanian-Canadian poet based in Windsor. Their latest poem explores the use of gendered terms in the Romanian language. (Photo courtesy of Ted Kloske - image credit)
Alexei Ungurenasu is a Romanian-Canadian poet based in Windsor. Their latest poem explores the use of gendered terms in the Romanian language. (Photo courtesy of Ted Kloske - image credit)

Language and culture shapes us in ways that last a lifetime.

That's the relationship a local artist wants to explore in their latest work.

Alexei Ungurenasu is a Windsor-based poet with Romanian heritage. They immigrated to Canada when they were just 12 years old. Now, they're reflecting on their experience as a non-binary artist who speaks the Romanian language.

Ungurenasu said for one, it can be more difficult to honour non-binary pronouns in their first language.

"We don't really have they/them. It doesn't work as well as in English. [My poem] will be about my overlapping cultures as a Romanian-Canadian. It is easy to be non-binary in English, but not as easy in Romanian and around Romanian people."

But they said there has been a gradual shift in culture, adding over time Romania has become more accepting of gay and lesbian people — but transgender people are still not as easily accepted.

"We have ei... which is 'them' or 'they' but even in that context, it has a masculine gender to it. There's also have ele, which is they/them for female people. So we don't really have a singular they/them," Ungurenasu said.

"Even the term 'non-binary' — it's not a term that's been popularized... It's not so common. And when it is used by people, sadly, it's used as a weapon. A way of othering people."

Their poem is still a work in progress and will be published by the end of June.

Ungurenasu is currently the city of Windsor's youth poet laureate until 2023.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting