Beyond Gender Binaries : Why The Way We Address Our Friends Matter

Beyond Boundaries
Reading Time: 4 minutes
My name is Alex and my pronouns are them/they.
We are nearing the end of Pride month and as your friendly ‘enby (read : non binary or NB), I will be your guide into the wonderful world of pronouns. Now why would call it wonderful? Well, because it is! Exploring what pronouns workbest for you or what label fits best with your identity can help withliberating your soul through your own way of gender expression andfindthe self’Experimenting with pronouns may also mean that you might identify better with a certain pronoun, or you want to switch it up every now and then, or maybe you find yourself feeling comfortable with any pronouns. Those are topics for another discussion, but for now, let’s start our journey with pronouns, shall we?

RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS 

SHE AND HE 

Currently sitting as the two most commonly used set of words to address someone, she/her and he/him are most often used for our friends whose identity falls under the binary spectrum, male and female. She/her being used for people who identifies as female, and he/him being used for people who identifies as male. Often times, these pronouns are also used as a way for other people to address someone who is feminine-presenting (looks feminine or looks like a woman) or masculine presenting (looks masculine or looks like a man) regardless of their actual gender.
This is assuming someone’s gender and can be harmful regardless of whether or not you are cis. Just because a woman has a deep voice or muscular body, doesn’t mean she isn’t a woman, and just because man has a soft voice or long hair, doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t man.

THEY 

Primary school English taught me—and perhaps everyone reading this article now—that ‘they/them’ pronouns are used to address multiple people. But as time goes on, you will see that this pronoun can also be used to address someone whose gender you have yet to know. For example, you’re walking down the street and you notice a wallet on the ground. You may be compelled to say, “hey, somebody dropped their wallet!” as opposed to saying, “hey, somebody dropped his or her wallet!” Due to this, ‘they/them’ pronouns have also been recognized as a singular pronoun, much like he or she, as a way to be more inclusive of people who may not fall under the typical binary gender system. And as such, have led many non-binary individuals such as myself to adopt these set of words.
For someone who’s just starting to learn to use singular they/them pronouns, it may take some getting used to, as your friendly bilingual enby who speaks English as their second language, I get it. A lot of enbies would understand too as long as you are not doing it on purpose, and you have a genuine desire to respect our pronouns.

NEOPRONOUNS 

With rules and purposes much like your standard pronouns mentioned before, neo-pronouns are a set of words that are not officially recognised in the language. Neopronounsare especially famous in languages with gendered pronouns such as English, French, Russian and German.
 
A person with neo-pronouns may find that previously recognised pronouns do not feel quite right and as such, a person may look for other pronouns that can better suit their identity. Some common neopronouns may include xe/xem, ze/zir, e/em and more !
Much like singular they/them, you may need some time to get used to it. But once again,it’s a small and simple step to respecting your friends and making them happy as opposed to doing the opposite and continuously purposefully misgender themThese useful tables from Inside Higher Ed and TSER(transstudent.org) can be used as a series of examples in sentencesand ways to pronounce them properly.
gender pronoun table
image : TSER (transstudent.org)

COMBINATION

A while back the internet broke after Elliot Page came out as trans and, on his Instagram post, also stated that their pronouns are ‘he/they’.What does this mean?Well, in this case, try to picture ‘he/they’as ‘he/him’ and ‘they/them’, meaning you will need to use them interchangeably. So, in cases where you would normally say, “he dropped his wallet,” on someone with ahe/him’ pronoun, a person with a combination ofpronouns would prefer, “he dropped their walletorthey dropped hiswallet.” However, different people have different gender expressionsand you are allowed highly encouraged to ask the other person moreabout the use of their pronouns. And yes, you can combine traditional pronouns with neopronouns ! 

But what do I do if I misgendered someone?

Apologise and immediately correct yourself. You don’t need to go overboard and apologise profusely, because we generally don’t want to make a big fuss over it (speaking for me and my enby friends’ experiences). What you definitely don’t want to Do, though, is acting defensively and disregard your friends’ requests for respect. At the end of the day, gender expression varies from person to person and it all really just boils down to how each person experiences it.One enby’s  experience does not encompass all non binary experiences and the same goes for binary-trans folks and sis people.
gender pronoun table 2
image : TSER (transstudent.org)
In the end, all words are made up and language is an ever-growingsystem of words. A language that cannot evolve at the same pace oftheir ever-changing people is bound to be forgotten. A hundred years ago we wouldn’t have a word like Googling, blogging, texting, miniskirt and networking, yet those were common everyday words we use. 
Saying someone’s pronouns do not make sense because they are just made-up words or saying their pronouns are used only to address multiple people, means you value made-up rules for equations made-up words over the well-being of a fellow human being.
I have a final note before we end on this short journey through the wonderful world of pronouns. When I first came out and told my loved ones about my identity and pronouns, some of them would forget a lot and when I don’t correct them, they’ll jokingly say that I simply forgot my own pronouns. I assure you, that is not at all the case, but rather, I did not want to bother them or seem like I’m making a fuss about my name and pronouns. For fellow non-cis folks out there or cis people who don’t necessarily fall under the gender norms, it is perfectly okay for you remind people of your preferred identity.
Also Read : 

5 Movies That Humanise The Lives of Displaced People Around The World 

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