"If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." – Lila Watson

Archive for the ‘preferred gender pronouns’ Category

Gender-Neutral and Non-Binary Preferred Gender Pronouns 101

Gender-neutral or non-binary pronouns are used when a person doesn’t know the gender of the person about whom they speak OR when a person requests a non-binary pronoun in reference to themself.
Typically, when someone does not know the gender of the person, “they” and its variants are used. There is a debate about the grammatical correctness of the singular “they”, but many argue that it is, indeed, a correct singular pronoun. In this post, I included resources about that debate, so I will not get into that here.
When someone uses a non-binary pronouns because “she” or “he”, and their variants, do not fit their needs, there are a lot of options that can be used! However, many people do not know these options, so I thought I would compile some resources for you!

  • Wiki: includes some examples from languages, including historical English
  • Wikitionary: List of protologisms by topic/third person singular gender neutral pronouns” —- includes this chart with usage examples (at the page, to which the chart links, the image is not in image format, so should be accessible).

  • Aether Lumina: expansive FAQ on gender-neutral pronouns and examples
  • wiseGEEK: just some more info about what gender-neutral pronouns are and their histories
  • Gender Neutral Pronoun: includes the below chart  (at the page, to which the chart links, the image is not in image format, so should be accessible) with the most commonly used pronouns. Also includes further descriptions of pronouns and this page (which includes several further resources and networks).

To be respectful, it is always important to use the pronouns someone prefers. If you don’t understand them, learn! Pronouns may not seem like a big deal to you, but they may be to someone else.

cross-posted to Tumblr

How to Use “They” as a Singular Pronoun

As a non-binary trans* person, I have been very apologetic in my life about pronouns. That’s my own issue, thinking that non-binary pronouns are too difficult for cisgender or binary-identified trans people to understand. I didn’t give those people enough credit.

I have no personal pronoun preference as of this point in my life, as long as those pronouns are non-binary. (I have said that I prefer male pronouns over female pronouns, just to show that there is difference between my assigned gender and identity. Male pronouns are still a way lower preference from me than non-binary ones.)

For a while, I chose to use “they”, because I felt like that was easier for some people, because it was at least a word they’ve heard before. You should never feel pressured to choose a pronoun because it’s easier for others to use, but I did, especially because I felt like I had to, based upon my gender presentation.

I quickly realized that I was wrong; “they” is surprisingly difficult for people to use in the singular form, especially after they’ve seen someone. Something about our culture means that, unless there are visual “clues” that you don’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth (or even if there are clues), you will be given a pronoun based on your appearance.

[Edit: of course there are issues with grammar, which is why I’ve included resources in that arena.]

But, until we see someone, or have been told other pronouns to use, “they” comes naturally (unless of course it’s involving a profession or otherwise where we use sexism to assume the male default).

Example 1: 
I have to go to an internist about my blood work. I wonder what they will say. I need to have them send a letter to my endocrinologist, stating their opinion on my how my medications interact. I hope they’ll do that soon.

Congrats! You’ve just used “they” in the singular form!

Example 2 (courtesy of my friend, Ethan; this takes place behind the counter at a grocery store deli): 
Mike answers the phone. It is his first day at work, so he passes the phone to Cameron: “I have a customer on the phone who would like to order a cake.” Cameron replies, “Okay, just ask her …(corrects self)… them what they would like on it.” Cameron corrected himself because he realized he doesn’t know the customer’s gender.

Cameron used “they” in the singular.

So why is it so difficult to use when people request it? Because you’ve seen them. That is beyond hurtful to non-binary identified people. When people request a pronoun, even if they give you another option, go with the one they prefer. Always. You can do it, with practice.


(cross-posted at Tumblr)