He, She, It, They, Them,…things are about to get complicated.

AimeFirst Year student Amie Carden explains how some writers are seeking a radical shift in the use of pronouns:

I am gender-fluid. My gender flows from one, into another and back. I identify as male, female and agender, but not all at once. When it comes to pronouns, this is an issue which strikes deep at the heart of our gendered culture.

Everyone knows how to use ‘they/them’, ‘it/itself’ pronouns when you don’t know someone’s gender.

Say, you’re discussing an article posted anonymously, would you assume a gender? Do you know how to use ‘they/them’, when someone does not identify with a binary gender?

Most people don’t even know there are genders outside the binary, and I don’t blame them. Mainstream media has hidden the identity of trans and non-binary people.

As a non-binary person, I use ‘They/Them’ pronouns.

When referred to, my pronouns could change from ‘he/him’, ‘she/her’ or, ‘They/Them’. Recently, I was asked to provide a profile post for the St Mary’s Writer’s site, and faced the dilemma of referring to myself in the third person. I made the concious decision to refer to myself as ‘They’, and had to explain why I chose to write this way about myself so it wasn’t mistaken as a grammatical error.

I personally find it easier to stick with one pronoun, which fits with my gender ninety per cent of the time, than struggle with explaining which one fits me in that moment.

‘They/Them’ fits me best.

This term does pose a challenge to literature. There can be a lot of confusion between ‘They’, a non-binary person, and ‘they’ a group of people. It becomes a bigger issue when there are multiple characters in a scene who go by the same pronouns. We struggle with this when it comes to binary pronouns as well, if we have two same-gendered people in one scene you need to use other skills to define them.

There is less confusion for the reader when characters are happily gender defined and accept, ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ pronouns in a scene together, as it’s so common. We could even play with the idea of having a way to distinguish between the two, like I have done in this piece.

I feel that if we started using neutral terms more regularly, it could be something we get used to; while at the same time I can see how gender neutral pronouns are going to be a struggle in literature. Our language and grammar is gendered, though less than other languages. Changing our use of pronouns may only be the start of a battle to defeat a gendered world.


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