What Does “They” Mean?
Do you understand what the term “non-binary” means? What about the pronoun “they”? The newest celebrity to state that they would like to be called by “they/them/theirs” pronouns is Sam Smith. The Meriam Webster Dictionary just included the word “they” as a pronoun of non-binary. This is huge for society as people have not accepted “they” as a pronoun of how people can identify themselves. So what exactly does this all mean to you, me, and to society as a whole.
From the National Center for Transgender Equality, non-binary is defined as not fitting into a certain check-box of male or female. They are able to feel a bit of both genders and do not feel a certain way, is why they identify themselves as “non-binary”.
⦁ People think/assume that all transgender individuals are non-binary. FALSE. Just like any individual, some will identify as non-binary, but some will also prefer traits of male or female and will prefer to be called by different pronouns.
⦁ If an individual prefers to be called by “they/them/theirs” pronouns, does not mean that they have to change their gender via surgery. They can still be anatomically one gender but prefer to use other pronouns.
In my blog post “Understanding Non-Binary/Genderqueer Pronouns” I really went into depth about being respectful and how to be respectful to non-binary individuals. Here are some ways you can be understanding.
⦁ Ask-if you are open and willing to ask questions, most likely than not, the other individual will be willing to provide you information as they want to also educate you. It is just like you being called the wrong name; you will correct the person speaking to.
⦁ Do not assume that just because they look like a female means they are a female. Try to use non-gender conforming pronouns and engage in conversation about what pronouns they prefer to be called by.
⦁ If you call them by the wrong pronouns, apologize for using the wrong pronouns. Being apologetic is very important, and trying your best is important. Also equally as important, if you are with someone who mis-genders an individual, correct them politely. Working together as a team is very important in making people feel welcomed and comfortable.
⦁ Practice makes perfect. In grade school, we are taught proper grammar, and we often times feel weird saying “they” in a sentence. Practice using “they” in a sentence when speaking about someone directly. Making it a part of your vocabulary. Due to me not often times knowing how someone identifies when meeting them, I use “they” to try not to offend anyone until I am able to ask them what pronouns they prefer to use.
See below for a brief list of non-binary pronouns that you or others can choose to be called by.
Being an ally for the LGBTQIA++ community is very important. Being an ally does not mean you have to identify as part of the umbrella, but that you are just supporting those individuals. It is hard for individuals to come out and express themselves openly and to have support around them is very important from them.
If you feel like you are not being heard and have questions or do not feel supported, reach out to a therapist who can help you process your emotions around your pronouns.
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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