They/Them and Other Not-So-Well-Known Pronouns

They/Them and Other Not-So-Well-Known Pronouns

Haven? Oh, they’re inside washing dishes.”

“Have you seen Haven’s phone? They said they lost it…”

“I swear to God, Haven is a danger to themself solely because of their clumsiness.”

I know for a fact that if you aren’t familiar with they/them singular pronouns, that last sentence was the one that really pissed you off. “‘Themself’ isn’t even a word! ‘They/Them’ is grammatically incorrect!”

If you happened to say or think these things while reading this, my friend, well…

Allow me to learn you a thing.

(See, shouldn’t you be paying more attention to ungrammatical joke-sentences than people’s pronouns?)

To understand this whole they/them thing at all, I think we’re going to need to understand the term non-binary first. It means “not binary…” Yes, I know, it’s shocking. The binary, when talked about in this way, refers to the two “main” genders – boy and girl, man and woman. Non-binary is anything in between, outside of, or within these two.

I, myself, identify as non-binary agender. This means that I feel I have no gender. Although I was born a female, and my sex will stay female unless I specifically go through surgery to negate that, my gender is “agender,” and I choose to present myself as androgynous (leaning a bit more towards the more masculine side of things).

Recap Time!

  • Non-Binary – outside of the binary; neither simply male nor simply female.
  • Agender – a lack of connection to any gender. No gender.
  • Sex – refers specifically to your parts, and not to your heart.
  • Androgynous – a way of presenting oneself which appears neither obviously feminine nor obviously masculine.

Fantastic! Are you following along so far? If not: take your time rereading. If so: continue on, my friend!

Pronouns refer to one’s gender – not one’s sex. So, while many people keep the pronouns assigned to them at birth alongside their sex, many other people prefer to use sets of pronouns that are entirely different from the binary (she/her, he/him.) Binary trans people, for example, will most-likely want to be referred to by the pronouns usually used for the gender or sex they are transitioning into.

There really is a huge world of pronouns that a lot of people have no idea exist – xe/xem, zie/zir, and the singular form of they/them, for example. I prefer they/them, because it makes me feel more androgynous and more comfortable in my own body. However, I understand that this makes a lot of people uncomfy, so I try not to be too put off by it when someone refers to me as a she. He/him and she/her are what humans are used to at the moment, and history has shown that humans are slow, slow, slow to change. One step at a time, yes?

Now, let’s talk about grammar. I have written several novels, my friend, and I can tell you quite confidently that grammar only truly comes into play for me when I’m writing in third person – otherwise, I write with the character’s voice, and if my character doesn’t speak with grammatical certainty, then I don’t force them to.

However, I can assure you that I am actually one hundred percent fluent in the fickle English language; I’ve aced nearly every English test since I was ten. Still, I understand that language is always evolving. If it weren’t, adults would not cringe every time they heard the word “shit.”

They/them pronouns may have been distinctly plural in the past. I’m sure some of you can recall being told off by an old English teacher all because you referred to a person whose gender you didn’t know by they/them pronouns. But think about it – whenever there isn’t a teacher breathing down your neck, you use they/them a lot, don’t you?

“Who’s the new secretary?”

“No clue, but I’ve heard they’re really shy.”

If you heard the above conversation during everyday life, I highly doubt you would question it. You’d think, immediately, that the person talking simply didn’t know the new secretary’s gender. Wouldn’t you? Maybe you wouldn’t, but I know many, many people that would.

So, the vast majority of us already use a singular form of they/them in everyday conversation. How hard can it possibly be to use it just a little bit more?

Ultimately, it comes down to respect. Whether a person’s pronouns are “grammatically correct” or not, that person deserves respect until they somehow manage to prove otherwise. If using gender-neutral pronouns makes them more comfortable in the life that they are living, then you really have no right to take that comfort from them.

Respect your peers, my dears! Everything else will fall into place.

Ahem, anyways. After that horribly long post, I believe it’s time for…

The gender-neutral insult of the day!

Today’s gender-neutral insult is…

“You’re worse than an ad that covers the entire webpage!”

Truly a blow to one’s pride.

-Haven

 

9 Replies to “They/Them and Other Not-So-Well-Known Pronouns”

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  2. Very informative and a great reminder of what priorities should be when it comes to something equivalent to “who vs. whom” and possibly making someone feel terrible! A+, tenouttaten, would read again.

  3. Mm, note on the recap of androgynous: it doesn’t have to be “neither masculine or feminine,” it could be a mixture of both! So while baggy shirts and jeans may be your way of dressing in an androgynous fashion, someone else’s may be to wear a bowtie and lipstick.

    . . . At least, that’s what Ash Hardell’s video said. Don’t hurt me. ;-;

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