Many nonbinary folk still use binary pronouns, such as she and he. However, many of us have chosen to use gender neutral pronouns, such as they/them or xe/xir.
1. Good news: you already know how to use them!
Even if this feels unusual to you, it is very likely that you already use gender neutral pronouns, perhaps without realizing it. For example, if you see a phone sitting on a table, you might say:
"I wonder who left their phone here? I hope they can get it back soon. I wonder how I can find them to give it back?"2. Third Person Pronouns
Please note that we are talking about third person pronouns. For example, if you are speaking to me, you would say,
I think you will love this movie, it might be your new favorite! (second person)If you are speaking about me, you would say,
I think they will love this movie; it might be their new favorite! (third person)3. Communicating Respect, Shifting Norms
Using the appropriate pronouns is a way of showing that you respect our gender identities, and that you want to be part of shifting social norms to include diverse genders. Thank you!
And don't worry - most of us are accustomed to folks making mistakes. Shifting norms takes practice! If you mess up, just pause, use the correct pronoun, and keep going.
However, many of us experience a refusal to use our pronouns as a signal that you don't respect our identities or our efforts to create a just society. If you find yourself resistant to using the appropriate pronouns, I would invite you to spend some time reflecting on why that is, how your resistance is impacting your relationship with the person(s) involved, and how it might impact your commitment to social justice.
4. More Information
If you are interested in learning more, here are some resources that you may find helpful:
- "What Is the Singular They, and Why Should I Use It?" by Celeste Mora (https://www.grammarly.com/blog/use-the-singular-they/ )
- "A brief history of singular ‘they'" from Oxford English Dictionary (https://public.oed.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-singular-they/ )
- "Singular 'They'" from Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-nonbinary-they )
- "All Your Questions About Gender-Neutral Pronouns Answered" by Desmond Meagley and Youth Radio (https://www.teenvogue.com/story/they-them-questions-answered )
- "What If Someone Makes a Mistake and Mispronouns Someone Else?" (https://www.mypronouns.org/mistakes )
- "Pronouns and Misgendering" (https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/pronouns-and-misgendering/ )
- Although light on the use of gender neutral pronouns, a good resource for encouraging one another to respect pronouns in professional settings is "How To Respectfully Use Gender Pronouns In The Workplace" by David Galowich (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/08/02/how-to-respectfully-use-gender-pronouns-in-the-workplace/ ).