Why I use they/them pronouns
Thu, 10 Jun 2021 23:00:10 +0000
June is Pride Month so I’m deviating slightly from my usual content to talk about pronouns, and in particular why I have been using they/them pronouns recently even though I mostly identify as a woman.
(This is an incredibly long topic but I’ll try and summarise it the best I can.)
I have used she/her pronouns my entire life. In fact, I didn’t even know there were any other options until I was well late in my twenties.
I firstly got exposed to the LGBTQ+ community when I moved to London in 2009, but it wasn’t until later on that I started educating myself and questioning my own gender and sexuality. (Well, in a way I feel like I always have, but I’d been floating in denial for years before I realised I had to take a step back and face the fact that I wasn’t cis or straight and never had been.)
The more I explored gender options, the more I realised that being in a woman’s body didn’t always feel right.
I took a lot of time reflecting on how this relates to having had an eating disorder in my early twenties and living with body dysmorphia up to this day. I still don’t have an answer for that.
Anyway, the past couple of years have been one revelation after the other when it comes to gender.
I started paying more attention to how I was feeling when people called me names that are specifically feminine (cringey), as opposed to being called gender-neutral names (euphoric). (I unfortunately work in retail and I get called doll, love, honey, madam, lady, miss etc all the time, when literally “cashier” would be a better option to all of the above.)
I reflected a lot on the concept of assuming, calling myself out every time I caught myself assuming someone’s gender.
I finally came out as non-binary/gender fluid/gender nonconforming in December 2020.
“Coming out” sounds very dramatic: I texted my closest friends asking them to please use they/them pronouns when referring to me, and then I posted a bathroom selfie on my IG stories to let everyone else know.
Since then, I have been feeling more at ease in my own gender identity.
Using they/them pronouns gave more sense to some gender nonconforming things I had been doing, like not shaving, dressing more masculine, or simply moving through life in a way that’s not stereotypically feminine.
But using they/them pronouns also put more focus on gender assumptions. Now I can’t help but noticing every time someone assumes someone else’s pronouns, me included.
I get misgendered all the time. No one has ever used they/them pronouns for me unless I have specifically told them.
On top of all this, I am things that are not related to gender.
I am a writer, not a female writer.
I am a hiker, not a female hiker.
I am a friend, not a female friend.
I am a human, not a female human.
For all the things I am, gender is irrelevant.
I came to this conclusion because I grew up as a woman, and women’s issues have always been prevalent in my education and in how I move around in the world.
Of course I understand that gender is extremely important for some people, and that is awesome. But for me, I wish gender was not the first thing people see when they look at me.
Gender comes with a lot of assumptions, and that’s what I want to challenge.
This is why I use they/them pronouns: because I don’t want gender to be the first thing people see in me. I don’t want people to make assumptions about me because I look like a woman.
And I also want to keep on educating myself and learn how to stop assuming, too.
This is obviously a HUGE conversation and I don’t have the space to expand any further for the time being.
But I would like to suggest a simple exercise that you can try to challenge your mindset when it comes to gender: try using gender-neutral language when referring to people you don’t know. So for example, call the person at the supermarket cashier instead of lady, the person on the bus driver instead of sir; if you like someone’s outfit, just say their jacket, or that person’s jacket. Only use gender-specific pronouns once you know they are the correct ones.
Thank you for making it to the end of this post, and let me know what you think!