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'They' VS Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Guest trickster

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Guest trickster

I prefer 'they', because it's a gender-neutral term that already exists in the English language. I figure that my gender-identity is already hard for people to wrap their minds around – asking them to add words to their language seems like it would just complicate matters.

My husband thinks I should use gender-neutral pronouns; he says the word 'they' can get confusing.

What pronouns do you guys use?

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  • Forum Moderator

Speaking from my androgyne point of view I have no real issue with either male or female pronouns although I can understand the problems in the outside world. I do not really like gender neutral pronouns.

I don't think people would really get used to anything outside the norm unless they knew you really well and in that context it does not matter (at least to me). I answer to both genders or either Tracy or birth name without issue.


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Guest Nicodeme

I tried xe for a while. Nobody would do xe. But nobody would do "they" either because people are argumentative jerks.

Created gender neutral pronouns DID, once upon a time, stand a chance, until people started going "LOOK HOW EASY IT IS JUST USE A NOUN" and people took it 100% seriously and just validated the complaint that we somehow expect people to "remember 50+ genders."

Yes I am bitter. :I

I gave up and switched to "they" and I continue to rearrange the crap out of my sentences to avoid having to use the reflexive form. Because how the hell does that work? Is it themself? Themselves?

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Guest Micha

I like "they."

I'm used to male pronouns, I'm tickled when I get female pronouns, but neither are really accurate.

And the only way for anyone to get used to it, is to start using it.

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I tried xe for a while. Nobody would do xe. But nobody would do "they" either because people are argumentative jerks.

Created gender neutral pronouns DID, once upon a time, stand a chance, until people started going "LOOK HOW EASY IT IS JUST USE A NOUN" and people took it 100% seriously and just validated the complaint that we somehow expect people to "remember 50+ genders."

Yes I am bitter. :I

I gave up and switched to "they" and I continue to rearrange the crap out of my sentences to avoid having to use the reflexive form. Because how the hell does that work? Is it themself? Themselves?

If you follow the grammatical convention when "you" shifted from strictly plural usage to singular and plural, the verb stays in the plural form (to the extent it would change), and "themself" would be the appropriate reflexive pronoun (just as we say "yourself" and "yourselves" depending on number).



I am me myself

You are you yourself

He/she/it is him/her/it himself/herself/itself

They are them themself.

And plural:

We are us ourselves.

You are you yourselves.

They are them themselves.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...

Well... I would like to use it/its pronouns but they aren't "okay" so I would use neutral pronouns like ze or xe rather than they. It's because I live in Germany and our pronouns are like that:

I = Ich

You = du

he/ she/ it = er/ sie/ es

We = wir

you = ihr

they = sie

You see the trouble? I can't use they in German because it's the same as she. That's why I would prefer ze or xe. I'm using my "cis-pronouns" because I'm used to it and people get confused.

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  • 4 years later...

I prefer they


I've noticed that I get a little eye twitchy when I read something that says "he or she..."

-it's like, I know you did this for feminism reasons (big pat on the back) but seriously, why not use they? it's easier and more inclusive 🙄

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@Querencia I have a similar reaction to "he or she". I'm a member of a union for work, and our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is full of he/she's, him/her's, etc. At the same time, the ostensible culture at work is such that we claim to value inclusivity. I'm tempted to suggest for the next bargaining cycle that we change all the pronouns in the document. I predict some academic "purists" may protest. But honestly, people need to realize that language has always been and will continue to be a living, dynamic thing. 


I prefer they/them, but as such have not yet accessed the power to ask folks irl for this. 

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1 minute ago, Vidanjali said:

I prefer they/them, but as such have not yet accessed the power to ask folks irl for this. 


I prefer they/them as well, and it would indeed be better if CBAs and other written communication used "they/them". Maybe that practice, if it were eventually to become much more commonplace, would lead to *spoken* communication following suit, but I'm not holding my breath.  I'm particularly thinking of the several times a day that we are likely to come into contact with people who themselves are binary but who don't know us personally (store assistants, a reference librarian, etc.).


It's as if we who are non-binary are in a Catch-22 situation.  If we appear non-binary -- in an androgynous manner -- then binary folks we meet usually make a guess and use either "sir" and "he" or "ma'm" and "she", and I at least inwardly wince each time this is done. ( Happily, this seldom happens with genderqueer people I meet for the first time, as they are aware how important personal address can be.) If on the other hand we appear distinctly female or male, and are addressed with the "matching" female or male pronouns, our appearance is not congruent with our non-binary-ness.


I will never be out to literally everyone, because I continually come into contact with with strangers pretty much every day.  I am not inclined to wear a "they/them" lapel pin -- and few strangers would take note of it.  Correcting strangers to use "they" becomes an eternal whack-a-mole experience.


I have concluded, reluctantly, that the course of least resistance with strangers works best for me: that is, accepting any civil form of address (masculine, feminine, or neutral) and moving on with whatever conversation we're having. It may (and does) sting a little, but life isn't perfect.  For close friends and professionals such as my doctors, I do share that I am non-binary and prefer "they/them".   There is one situation I dread, however (and thankfully it doesn't come up much):  what to do when in a meeting that includes both strangers and close friends?  At least in Zoom, I can include "they/them" after my name.  In person, it's not that easy.





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2 hours ago, Astrid said:

Correcting strangers to use "they" becomes an eternal whack-a-mole experience.


Today, as I was checking out at the dentist's office after having my teeth cleaned, I heard a voice behind me, "excuse me, ma'am". I assumed the person was trying to get the attention of one of the (ostensible) women behind the desk. But, no one acknowledged the voice, and I heard him say again, "excuse me, ma'am". I tensed up and thought, "he can't be talking about me...please don't be me..." After the third "excuse me, ma'am", the person behind the desk I was dealing with addressed me by my name and pointed somewhere behind me. I turned around and was surprised to find a person in a wheelchair who was trying to get by (the space in front of the checkout desk is just a small hallway). I begged the person's pardon and moved out of the hallway to let him pass. It was very strange - I felt like a real heel for being in his way and not acknowledging him because I did not want to entertain the idea that I was the "ma'am" in question. Was my self-righteousness (??) further inconveniencing someone who obviously already had challenges? Sigh. I wondered what would have made more sense to me. I thought that if he'd left the ma'am out, and instead asserted his request "can you please let me by", that I would have much more quickly realized he was addressing me. That is, I would have more readily identified with "person who is in the way" over "ma'am". Of course, on the other hand, if I can't bring myself to ask people to call me them, why should I expect him to feel empowered to assert himself? Would it be better to always respond to "ma'am" just in case it is me being called to? This seems awfully distasteful. But, I don't want to hurt or inconvenience anyone. It certainly can be sticky. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I really like using they/them for myself, because it's really the only pronoun that fits right to me. He and she stick out like sore thumbs in a sentence and I just don't like the little spike of anxiety they give me every time someone uses them now. I have a friend that calls me they/them and believe me when I say I love it. Still hard to not refer to myself as a woman though, as I've learned you can misgender yourself. Slowly breaking myself of that habit.

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