On pronouns

Traditionally, gender is binary, or split into two options: he and she. Gender fluidity, agender, intersex, and other non-binary identities challenge this idea. The idea that gender is more of a spectrum with masculinity and one end and femininity at the other is becoming more accepted. For society to be inclusive and respectful to all identities and expression of gender there needs to be a gender neutral pronoun. As we become more and more inclusive, the list of preferred pronouns grows.

The most common is “they”. It is used just like the plural they, but instead to refer to a singular person. Instead of “He enjoyed himself.” you would say “They enjoyed themself.” They and themself take the place of he and himself respectively. Other pronouns include co, en, ey, xie, yo and ze. People choose pronouns based off of personal identity and what they feel most comfortable with.

A handy guide from UCDavis lists them out here:

co

co

cos

cos

coself

en

en

ens

ens

enself

ey

em

eir

eirs

emself

he

him

his

his

himself

she

her

her

hers

herself

they

them

their

theirs

themself

xie

hir (“here”)

hir

hirs

hirself

yo

yo

yos

yos

yoself

ze

zir

zir

zirs

zirself

Again, these are by no means the only options, just the ones most commonly used.

So some questions:

Why use gender neutral pronouns?

Using the correct pronouns is a respect thing. If you use someone’s preferred gender pronouns (PGP), it shows to them that you respect their gender identity. This is huge. More importantly, it shows that you respect them as a person. Using the wrong pronouns, intentionally or not, can make someone feel alienated or invalid. It’s just as insulting to be called “he” if you identify as “she” as it is to be if you identify as “ze”.

How do I ask someone’s pronouns?

It can be an awkward thing to do. Chances are, the person will be happy you asked. Again, its a show of respect.

One way to ask is to introduce yourself with your pronouns and then ask the other person. Example: “My name is _______ and my pronouns are _____/_____. What about you?”

You could ask just ask directly “What pronouns do you prefer?”

When in doubt, just use the person’s name. It can be awkward to ask, but its more awkward to assume.

What if I make a mistake?

It is perfectly okay. Just correct yourself, apologize and keep going. The fact that you’re making an effort is a good thing.

Remember to always keep in mind the person’s needs. Keep in mind if they are closeted or not. Many people are open with their identities in some circles and not others. Ask in what situations each pronoun is appropriate or what the person is comfortable with. The last thing you want to do is out them by accident.

As always, keep an open mind, do your research and communicate!

Every good wish,

Julia

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