Most cis-het people most realise this, but we gendered pronouns on a day-to-day bases. “He loves to cook”, “she can’t live without her full body massager”, “he bought her a Pulse for Valentine’s Day.” These are all examples of pronouns. The recurring nature of these pronouns makes it difficult for non-binary people to function efficiently in daily life if they don’t identify with either.
And this is the case in most languages, as gender is tethered to pronouns in dialogue and syntax. Unfortunately for a number of people, including gender-fluid, transgender and non-binary people, this means they have to grapple with the transition of using the conventional to they/them pronouns.
For years and sometimes decades, they must combat misgendering- when the wrong pronoun is used to refer to a person. This has the potential to trigger trauma or create a difficult situation for a person who would prefer to use they/them pronouns.
This is why it is very important to take time and always ask someone if they use they/them pronouns. Don’t ever assume you just know someone’s pronouns. And if you’re too shy to ask, using they/them pronouns is always a safe bet.
They/them in the singular context are one of many gender-neutral pronouns. Many people use them widely when referring to a person they don’t know very well or in the event, there is a new person at a place of work or gathering. For example, “I think someone will fill in for the manager. It is likely they will start in a week or two.”
As seen above, they is also handy if you don’t know a person’s pronouns just yet. However, wherever possible, it’s always best to ask what pronouns people use and take it from there. Inculcating it as common sense and practice makes it nearly impossible to misgender someone in the future.
When it comes to pronouns and toys, it doesn’t have to be a black and white decision. Men can use full body massagers and your masculine-looking friend can identify as she/they. A lot of folks combine their pronouns, for example, he/they, she/them, or he/she/they, or some other variation of that. If you meet someone, where that is the case, ensure you use them equally in your exchanges with a said person rather than picking one and sticking to it.
Sharing Your Own Pronouns
If you do choose to identify with they/them pronouns, sharing it with those around you can help break down barriers and create awareness about the notion. The more authentically one lives their life, the less likely they are to encounter misgendering. It also helps normalise the use and disclosure of they/they pronouns which subsequently helps limit discrimination.
A great and easy way to get the point across is by adding it to your email signatures, sign-offs or social media bio. That way people can get a pulse of the situation without having an awkward conversation.
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