December 2017
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why I use 'they' as my standard pronoun / I now require gender-neutral pronouns in reference to me


icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

For many years I used ze/zir for everyone, and fairly recently I changed to they/them (still working on it, I have all of the slip-ups). I made the switch for several reasons. One is that even though ze/zir does not refer to a gender and is thus a term for any person, it is taken as meaning "something other than he or she" and I have to acknowledge the common perception even though it's inaccurate. So I use they/them because that is actually taken as gender-neutral. There is also the fact that I am not the clearest enunciator, and people sometimes hear my "zir" as her and my "ze" as he. That doesn't work either! And lastly and most importantly, they/them is inclusive of people who are bigender or multigender and plurals (people who are multiple systems, multiple people living in the same body. FAQ). And because of the misconception about ze/zir, using that set for all people can be hurtful to binary trans people because it may be perceived as stripping gender, but "they" is less likely to be perceived as an invalidation of identity. So, overall I switched to 'they' to communicate more accurately and to be more inclusive.

Also, I realized recently that as a person who only feels mild discomfort at people using gendered pronouns about me, I am relatively privileged, and I need to mobilize this privilege for the sake of those who feel deeply wounded by gendered pronouns. So I have decided to require people to refer to me in gender-neutral terms, because that will make it easier for others to require it when they need it. I am not entirely sure how to go about this, because I haven't done it before, but it's my intention. Please poke me if you notice me failing to do it; that will help me to remember and/or have the courage to do it. And if you do not care what pronouns people use in reference to you, I urge you to also require gender-neutral from those who refer to you. You won't be hurt if people tell you no, so your risk is much smaller and you can make the world a safer place, in a small way. You never know who around you is wincing inside every time someone says "he" or "she."

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Comments
alicroc ══╣╠══
This is really fascinating to me. I have a cousin who is transgender. Born male, living as female. And it has personally been a huge struggle for me change pronouns in reference to them (I'm trying!).

I don't slip up to be offensive, but we lived the first 30 years of our lives without knowing that cousin had another preferred identity.

I guess the only quarrel I ever had with cousin was when they first decided to be identified by female pronouns, which they wholeheartedly do prefer, it was just weird in my own mouth to do it, as weird as it was to switch them from their male name to their preferred female moniker. CLEARLY, this is societal programming right?

I do my best to honor cousins "new" identity (it can't really be new if it was dormant there their whole life I suppose?). It's still a challenge and I slip up.

At first, they would get super angry with me. Like I said, I was was never doing it to be offensive, I would simply forget.

I guess that is the only beef I ever had. From those of us that are using gendered pronouns, if asked not to....we gotta have an adjustment period right?

Thankfully, cousin and I have patched up my non intended transgressions of their preferred gender identification...but admittedly, I still think of cousin as male deep down. But I do respect that they present otherwise.
wildrose ══╣╠══
raidingparty ══╣╠══
Thanks for letting us know!
kmiotutsie ══╣╠══
I'm so glad you wrote this! As a cis-person I've felt like a jerk airing criticisms for some of the more awkward sounding pronouns, because so many staunch resisters of gender neutral pronouns use language like mine ("it sounds awkward!" et al) to excuse their lack of respect for chosen or gender neutral pronouns. There are so many that just feel awkward on my tongue, not because I'm not used to them but because I'm super sensitive to clunky sounds. (I really take issue with the word "chocolate," for example, and hate too many consonants next to each other. The word "sandwich" makes me cringe.)

Some of those same staunch criticizers take issue with they/their because it's not grammatically correct, but they can stuff if. they/their is so easy to roll with.

I'm privileged to live in queer circles who frequently ask "what are your pronouns" on meeting a person, but it's not something I do myself: I they/their everyone to death, and only make a strong effort not to if the person is transitioning and gendered pronouns are really important to them.
lilywolfsolomon ══╣╠══
People seem to hear my "ze" either he or she depending on the assumptions they already have about who I'm talking about or what I'm saying. I think more often "she."
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.