Can we please stop calling for a single, “standard” non-binary pronoun?

This is something I’ve seen come up both within non-binary communities, and a point I see raised by cisgender folk claiming to be allies. This whole non-binary genders thing would apparently be way easier to handle if everyone just agreed on one pronoun set for us/these people (depending on who’s saying it) and used it across the board. Usually the person or people suggesting this even has has a pronoun set in mind that they think would be best, though to be clear there is no standard set that everyone agrees upon as generally best, either.

Here’s the thing though. The reason I know that there is no single pronoun set that adequately represents the genders of all non-binary people? It’s because not all non-binary people have chosen the same pronoun set.

Each of us, when we decide that we need people to use non-binary pronouns for us, makes a choice about which pronouns we prefer. We make those choices based on a huge number of things, including in many cases (like my own) what pronouns we think will be easiest/most convenient for others to use. But that is not the only consideration, nor should it be. In fact, the first thing I ever wrote on this blog looked at some of the reasons why people with different non-binary genders may prefer different pronouns

When someone chooses a pronoun set other than ‘they/them’ (for instance) it’s not that zie* didn’t know it was on option. Zie doesn’t need some cisgender person to explain to zir that ‘they/them’ is there for zir and would do the job of representing zir gender. Zie chose zie/zir (or whatever other pronoun set) because that pronoun set represents/expresses zir gender better than the other pronoun sets. And Zie is the only person who gets to have an opinion on the matter.

To tell people that they should use just whatever pronouns others are more comfortable with, that that would be easier for them, is the same shit we’ve seen in every movement toward queer liberation – we want the weirdest folks who make the normals the most uncomfortable (whether it’s queer people who are unabashedly sexual and promiscuous, or trans people who refuse to ‘pass’ correctly, or ace people who have the audacity to be sex-repulsed, or whatever the fuck else) to step into line so that those of us who have an easier time of fitting in already can have and even easier time of improving our lives while continuing to throw the “real” weirdoes under the bus.

And I’m having none of it.


*I’ve decided arbitrarily that this hypothetical person uses zie/zir pronouns, in order to be able to actually write this paragraph at all, since the only other apparent option is to refer to zir with the indeterminate they, immediately after clarifying that this person doesn’t use ‘they’. Which, I’m not going to do that, even to a hypothetical person, mmkay? Substitute any other pronoun set and the argument stands.

4 comments

  1. While I admittedly, in theory, prefer they/them/their pronouns for myself, I find it extremely difficult in real life to use them for myself or anyone else and it frustrates me to the point where I say f@#% it. I have even more trouble with all the other pronoun sets. I figure if I have this much trouble then it’s hopeless to get others who aren’t trans or queer to change. I don’t get much chance to practice either which is part of my problem. However, though I mess up a lot it’s not for lack of respect or trying. While I think it would make things simpler if we could come up with a neutral pronoun I do agree that everyone should get to say what their pronoun of choice is. I’m still working out pronouns for myself.

    1. I also tend to struggle with neutral/non-binary pronouns (other than they/them, which I’ve got down) when I’m speaking, because it is definitely a thing that takes practice and I haven’t had much call to do it. It does come with effort <3

      Good luck in your own journey!

  2. It is a big shift in narrative. And it’s an important one. I like referring to myself as human or person because that is the narrative I really need to work on within myself.

    Pronouns don’t bother me – but why? Your blog often challenges me to dig into that “conclusion” I seem to have. I find myself wishing for non-binary language for everyone all the time. I value correctness but also efficiency.

    Like an accurate human, I enjoy paradoxical crap. :P

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