Anonymous asked: As a non-binary demigendered person I may strongly disagree with all that pronoun thing that permeates non-binary community. Just like “she” can describe lots of different degrees and experiences of femininity, and “he” can describe lots of different degrees and experiences of masculinity, the singular “they” can be perfectly fit to describe the many and countless different degrees and experiences of non-binarism. (I’m running out of letters, so this is 1/2)
(There were six full asks that were just this nonsense I stg.)
I will not be reading any of your further messages, that’s for sure.
Let me just say this
We have these words because we need them, because they are useful, because they feel right, because they are necessary. Every pronoun set that has ever been coined was coined for a reason and is used by somebody.
It is not your place to police the identities of others. It is not your place to disagree with the words that somebody else needs.
Cool for you that you don’t need a nonbinary pronoun set. Many, many many many other people do. Get over it. We are not going away, and we’re not going to change our words to make things “easier” for you.
I’m with the OP on this one. I DO need a non-binary pronoun set. I need it very much. And I need it to simple, memorable, and as minimally confusing as possible so that people will ACTUALLY USE IT, including cis people. Which means *I* need the non-binary community to come to something approaching consensus about what terms we are willing to accept. When people flail around because they don’t know whether use “they” or “zie” or “xe” or any of the other 40+ pronoun sets that are out there THAT makes me feel more dysphoric than people misgendering me. It makes me feel like my non-binary status isn’t respected and doesn’t have a place in the world and is just some inconvenient annoyance that people would rather not deal with.
I brought this discussion topic up in my genderqueer support group last night and every one of the nearly dozen people present agreed with me that expecting people to remember 40+ different pronoun sets and who prefers which is not reasonable. Pronouns are linguistic shorthand and they need to be able to function as such. If you want something personal that refers to just your unique identity that’s what NAMES are for. We don’t all agree on what the consensus pronoun should be but whatever it ends up being we’re all willing to adapt and use it. And most of us are willing to accept alternate non-binary pronouns for ourselves even if they’re not our most preferred set because we really do want this to be possible and realistic as a widespread thing.
Oh and by the way, assuming that just because someone wants to simplify their language and the language they need to explain to their friends and family and not expect all of them to keep track of 40+ pronoun sets they must be cis is pretty cis-sexist.Telling someone who has identified themself TO YOU as non-binary that they are spouting nonsense and to just “get over it” is policing THEIR identity. They never said they don’t need a non-binary pronoun set.
I’ve identified as outside the gender binary for 24 years. I go by “they”. I only felt comfortable adopting that recently because I feel like it finally IS approaching consensus (a couple of recent surveys show 60+% of non-binary identified folks preferring that). Before that I wanted gender-free pronouns very badly but I didn’t feel able to adopt any because of the above-mentioned gender-dysphoria I experience when people flail around not knowing which pronoun to use. It’s still not perfect but it’s finally getting better. Stop making it worse for me and others like me who just want to live in the world.
Hear hear, especially on that next-to-last paragraph. Expecting every person to remember and use every individual’s custom-made pronoun set is just creating an impossible linguistic situation.
I don’t agree with the commentary at all. I use they/them/theirs because that’s what people know and it’s more convenient, but I’ve kind of wanted to use other pronouns but I’ve afraid to thanks to mentalities like this. There’s not that many nonbinary people percentage-wise in the world. How many pronouns is the typical person really going to have to memorize? How much harder is it to remember a pronoun set than it is to remember name? Idk, maybe i’m wrong and impractical but this seems fucked up to me.
No one memorizes full pronoun sets for crying out loud. You only need to know the pronouns of the people you know. And really? People having diverse pronouns causes you more dysphoria than people misgendering you? Even purposefullymisgendering you? Why would we all use the same pronouns when our genders are so diverse? What in the world.
[I am copying this into a text post because something about the formatting of reblogged asks is screwing with my blog code.]
This is not just about cis people being unwilling to accept new/invented pronouns on a personal level.
First I’m going to address some individual points:
- "Why would we all use the same pronouns when our genders are so diverse?" Cis genders are diverse too.
- "How much harder is it to remember a pronoun set than it is to remember name?" Aside from the fact that it’s not a noun (the same in all linguistic settings) but a verb (which has many mutations and surrounding linguistic gumph)?
And now for the infodump.
In the English language, pronouns are a closed class. I’m no language buff but from what I can gather in my online trundlings this means that unlike open class stuff like verbs and nouns (“to blog”, anyone?), pronouns are much harder to shift. We make new nouns as fast as we need them, and we verb them so much that verb is now a verb as well as a noun.
So no, remembering and learning how to use a different set of pronouns isn’t the same as remembering someone’s name. It would be great if we could, but it’s just not the way it is. Our language brains don’t work like that individually, so the English language as a whole won’t adapt for a very very long time unless we can somehow as a language open this closed class (which to my knowledge just doesn’t happen). We add new nouns and verbs to our dictionaries every year, but the last time we got a new pronoun was several hundred years ago when we repurposed “you” from being purely plural to being both plural and singular. For a new pronoun, it’s not that new. Of course, it still takes plural verbs even in the singular but no one seems too bothered by that.
Another argument I see is that the Swedes invented a new singular gender-inclusive pronoun, “hen”, and now schools are using it and it’s really catching on. However, this pronoun was invented in the 1960s, and has only recently gained recognition internationally because it was added to the National Encyclopedia. Like many European languages, Swedish has a central authority that decides on words, spellings, etc. It’s the Language Council of Sweden, if you’re curious. However, English doesn’t have one. That’s why our spelling and grammar is so bizarre. Things are put into the dictionary through common usage, which happens when we have a linguistic need.
We do in fact already have a linguistic need, because even though the majority of people who speak English don’t know about nonbinary people they do sometimes have to speak about an individual whose gender is unknown. But we already have a word that is sidling into that niche.
Which brings me nicely to my next subject, singular “they”. Singular they has been around since at least Chaucer (1400-ish), that’s 600 years, and he was just the first person we’ve found to write in Middle English instead of Latin. So it has probably been around for a lot longer than that, and just hadn’t been written down yet. That’s not just general “they”, but “they” in regard specifically to an individual. 600 years, folks.
Singular “they” is in the Oxford English Dictionary:
2. Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by every, any, no, etc., or applicable to one of either sex (= `he or she’).
2. Often used for `him or her’, referring to a singular person whose sex is not stated, or to anybody, nobody, somebody, whoever, etc.
It clearly has roots in plurality, since it is always followed by a plural verb like singular “you”, but for the past many many years we typically use it to refer to someone whose gender is unclear or not known. We might say something like, “and your doctor, what have they prescribed for your cough?” We use it so often, in most conversations even,without noticing. People struggle to use singular “they” for people who’re standing in front of them because nonbinary people are relatively unknown, so we still think we can judge someone’s binary gender from appearance; this is an issue that binary trans* folks get a lot too. But when people object to singular “they” because it takes a plural verb, why the hell don’t they ever say “you is”? The grammar objection is invalid as soon as someone refers to me to my face.
I have been out as nonbinary for three years now, and the most confusion I’ve seen is when a pregnant friend referred to her unborn child as “them” when the norm is to say “it”; the person she was speaking to asked if she was having twins. (The calling of newborn and sexed babies “it” and the subject of objectification of children is a whole other discussion.) Occasionally someone will ask a friend for clarification, as if to say “but I thought we were just talking about Cassian; is Cass bringing a friend later?” and it is very easily cleared up. (“Cassian’s not a man or a woman, so we call them “they” instead of “he” or “she”. They’re coming alone.”)
As I mentioned above, pronouns are a closed class. This is supported by my own experience; I have been out as nonbinary for three years, and one of my autistic hyperfocuses is gender, especially nonbinary gender. The majority of my (small-scale sub-duvet) activism is nonbinary visibility, and I promote the gender-inclusive title Mx and tell people off for having limiting gender options on their forms. I read the blogs of various nonbinary people and research nonbinary celebrities, whom I discuss AFK in various social settings, and singular “they” is not a problem for me. I am even quite good at languages, especially French, and I learn systems (such as languages) fast. I actively enjoy learning about and talking about nonbinary people. I take care not to misgender everyone. However, if someone has an atypical pronoun like v or per, I really struggle. I slip up a lot, and even though I mostly get it right I end up saying stuff like “per hair is great! I wonder where they- I mean, per- got it done?” The vast majority are not as careful or, honestly, as good as me, and I stillstruggle with invented gender-inclusive pronouns.
I have just about gotten the knack of zie and hir, but when I use them I get strange looks. D’you know what happens when I explain? The very same people who are resistant to singular “they” for grammatical reasons say stuff like, “but why do we need zie/hir? Can’t I just say they instead?”
If you hold up a picture of a stick person to 100 people on the street, and instruct them not to call this person he or she, and then ask them to make up a story about this stick person, 99 of those people will say “they”. The remaining person will say “it”, and express discomfort in doing so.
We are in this for the long haul, and we’re not going to get legal recognition until we get social recognition. It has taken decades to get “equal” marriage, and that’s with several hundred years of documented evidence of gay people, and several decades of active and aggressive campaigning and protesting and in some memorable cases riots, and that’s just because of the most-recognised initial in LGBT. Bisexual people are still invisible, and you can still get fired or beaten up or killed for being trans*. Equal marriage came after acceptance and recognition by the majority of the population, many of whom are hetero, and we still don’t have a hope of the Gs being celebrated. Let’s apply this to nonbinary stuff, shall we? Yes, nonbinary folks have been around since forever, and we have evidence of that. But intersex babies are routinely operated on so that they can look like nice typical cisgender children, because parents are so uncomfortable with gender deviance and they get gender and sex mixed up because cissexism. Our toy sections are increasingly divided by gender, with less and less toys being “neutral”. These are not symptoms of a culture that accepts people outside of the gender binary. Acceptance is what we have to work for; subcultures that are not accepted are not legally recognised. I have been recommended for transition-related surgery by my gender identity clinic, but I am a very unusual case. This equal marriage that we have “won” refers only to men and women, same-sex and opposite-sex marriage, meaning I cannot get married.
Everyone I speak to knows what “gay” means, so much so that people *joke* about it meaning happy like it used to. This is, I’m sure you know, a pretty old pun. But if I say words like nonbinary and genderqueer to most people I get blank looks. Until these words are at the very least in the big dictionaries we don’t have a hope of legal recognition. I will have to pretend to be cis in order to access basic services for probably many decades; it’s widely acknowledged that trans* folks have the worst deal of GSM folks and they can get a gender recognition certificate and the correct sex marker on their passports and medical records, but this is something I cannot have. I am denied something that is a right in the Human Rights guidelines.
These things will not change until people can comfortably talk about people like me to strangers without having to explain a basic part of our identities. This is most likely to happen by repurposing an existing suitable pronoun, because as I mentioned above pronouns are a closed class. When pronouns are a closed class, a different pronoun for each nonbinary person isn’t just hard. Saying “just use the pronouns I tell you to” doesn’t work because people need to understand the meaning in order to comfortably use new language, but most people don’t know what it’s like to not have a binary gender.People get confused and feel guilty for not understanding and messing up, and when that happens a lot of people go into denial mode and just ignore that nonbinary people exist at all. Not everyone, but a lot of people.
And yes, people getting confused about and objecting to our pronouns causes dysphoria, as much as people using “he” or “she”. Cisgender people don’t get stuff like “how do you spell these pronouns?” or “that’s just made up!” or “can’t I just call you [this other one I know already]?”, and every time this happens we are being told that our gender isn’t real to them and it hurts. We get this even from people we care about or depend on for care. People who choose gender-inclusive pronouns that aren’t singular “they” have a really really tough time of it, and have to explain themselves constantly or keep quiet and be misgendered. But everyone knows how to use singular “they”, and they can spell it too. Those of us who use it have a much easier time of it, and we don’t have to have conversations like, “no, here, let me write it down. See: zie? You say it like you say Zsa Zsa Gabor. Okay, some people spell it differently, but… [some time later] Okay, what were we talking about?”
And finally. I would love to be wrong. I like learning and using and remembering people’s pronouns, and wow do I know that pronouns are a very very personal choice and I will never ever tell someone that their pronouns are not real or necessary or possible. Please carry on making up pronouns and using them with people who’re willing and more able to learn than me, because when one catches on and starts being used by people who don’t know any nonbinary folks I want to know about it and use it everywhere. I would love that a lot. But until that time comes, I will be using for myself the singular gender-inclusive pronoun that we’ve had for 600 years and that people thoughtlessly use on a daily basis.