As I mentioned in my radio show, pronouns can be tricky. Especially non-binary* pronouns. So I’m making a quick guide on how to use these pronouns, correct misgendering mistakes, and why pronouns are so important to people. First, read this article by Merriam Webster explaining the singular they pronoun.
I just want to start this off on how to correct yourself when you accidentally misgender someone. Trust me, no trans person wants you to make a huge debacle about it. I remember once on a field trip in eighth grade, the tour guide made me slap her because she felt so bad about misgendering me. It just drew unwanted attention to me and made me feel uncomfortable about it. When you misgender someone accidentally, just quickly say “sorry, I meant [person’s correct pronoun]”, and move along. That way you correct yourself and you don’t make it into a huge event.
Personally, I really dislike the term “preferred pronoun.” It’s not a preference, it’s my actual pronoun. Calling me anything but he (or they, I’m okay with that if you prefer) is wrong. Preferences imply that it’s not wrong/not okay if you chose another option. Pronouns are people’s pronouns, not a preference.
I don’t know if this will ever happen, but I hope that one day introducing yourself will include saying your name and your pronouns. Assuming people’s pronouns is something we all do. It’s natural for us. I don’t think that’s a habit we necessarily need to change, though it would be nice to think of everyone using gender neutral pronouns (they is the first thing I think of) when you see a person who’s pronouns are unknown to you. Introductions in a dream world would be like “Hi, my name is ___ and my pronouns are ___.”
If you read aforementioned Merriam Webster article it explains how to use the singular they pronoun. If you skipped out on it, here’s a simplified explanation. They has been used as a singular pronoun for awhile, and while it’s often credited as grammatically incorrect, it’s been repurposed to be a singular gender neutral pronoun since English is lacking one (Swedish, I believe, made a gender neutral pronoun recently). And you’ve been using the singular they, without realizing it. For example: “Did the mailman come?” “Yes” “Oh, what did they bring?”
My dad has been confused with the singular they, and I’ve noticed this is a common occurrence. Because English is weird and doesn’t make any sense, the singular they is still used like you would use it in a plural sense. For example: “This is my friend, ___. They are non-binary.” Don’t ask me why this happens, I’m not the grammar expert. All I can say is English can really suck sometimes.
And when it comes to gender neutral honorifics, the most common thing I’ve seen is Mx. instead of Mr. and Mrs./Ms. It’s pronounced as ‘mix’, and you would use it just like the other honorifics. There are also gender neutral alternatives to titles. Most people tend to go with the male honorifics (actor instead of actress, as an example) because it most languages, the male and neutral pronouns tend to be the same. Also, in the Latino/Latina community, people say Latinx (I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced latin-ex) as a gender neutral alternative.
And, this is even more confusing to some people, but pronouns aren’t necessarily gendered. Most times, boys use he/him pronouns, girls use she/her pronouns, and non-binary people use they/them pronouns, but this isn’t always the case. You’ve probably heard of Ruby Rose, Australian actor and DJ. And you probably know she uses she/her pronouns. But Ruby Rose identifies as non-binary. She just identifies with she/her pronouns instead of they/them pronouns. Some people don’t like they/them pronouns because of the stigma surrounding them.
There are neo-pronouns people use, such as xe/xim or ze/zir. They both are generally used for non-binary/gender non-conforming people, but pronouns aren’t limited to a gender. In addition to these neo-pronouns, there are also noun-pronouns. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of noun-pronouns because people who tend to use these pronouns are otherkin. I personally do not understand the otherkin community, or necessarily want to. Otherkin are one of the reasons trans people are teased so much, in my opinion. Otherkin are people who ‘identify’ with animals, other people, and inanimate objects. Their pronouns tend to align with what they identify with. So if a person were fairy identifying otherkin, they might use pronouns like fae/faer. Noun-pronouns are not something I would ever want to use, but I respect the people who use those pronouns and refer to them as such, because I’m a decent person.
I do have to say, I’ve never heard of a cis girl using he/him pronouns, and vice versa with a cis boy, but that’s probably happened. I say cis people because some trans people keep the pronouns that they were assigned with birth for a period of time to help people transition to their new pronouns easier (I did with my parents). Some trans people even keep the pronouns they were assigned with at birth, and while I don’t understand, I respect that.
I often get asked why I get so upset when people purposefully call me she, or even accidentally. Pronouns matter to people. Especially trans people, because when we’re called the pronouns assigned to us at birth, or it, it’s dehumanizing. It’s used in a taunting way, meant to harm us. And it’s not okay. When someone purposefully calls me ‘she’ or ‘miss’, I call them the wrong pronouns and honorifics back. They don’t respect me, I don’t respect them.
This has gotten way more out of hand than I intended. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!
*Non-binary: Someone who doesn’t identify as male or female. See here or here for a further explanation.