The growing awareness of the range of gender identities and people’s rejection of the gender binary has resulted in the rise to prominence of the singular “they,” as well as “neo pronoun” alternatives.
Someone who identifies as nonbinary, genderqueer or transgender, for example, might prefer to be referred to as “they” or “ze” rather than the gender-conforming pronouns “he” and “she.” Some with particularly conservative feelings about the English grammar may bristle at the sound of “they” describing a singular person, but how rigid are those grammatical “rules” and how frequently have they changed in the past?
The rising usage of non-binary gender pronouns has not only increased the visibility of those in the world who don’t conform to the traditional idea of gender, but also created a teaching moment about recognizing and respecting the identities of those who reject the gender binary.
What are the political and historical implications of the singular “they?” If you’ve chosen to use a gender neutral or non-binary pronoun like “they,” “ze,” or “hir,” how have people reacted? How do you explain to them why you chose the pronoun you did and what it signifies?
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Dennis Baron, he is writing a book on the history and politics of gender pronouns; professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois
Erika Price, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns them/them; they’re a professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago; they tweet @dr_eprice