As written by one singular genderqueer person among many.
Hi there! Has someone in your life recently come out to you as genderqueer? Did a new friend introduce themself with “they/them” pronouns? Wondering in general what the heck is going on because in your day girls wore pink and boys wore blue and everything seems to be moving too quickly?
Not to worry! I, Laur A. Freymiller, am here to provide a user’s guide to the singular “they”.
NOTE: I am only one of many people to use this pronoun. The best way to figure out usage is to ask the person in question.
“Oh NO!” you think, “but that will be awkward. THEY will be offended!”
False. I’d 3000x rather explain how to use the “they/them” pronouns than be misgendered for a whole conversation.
P.S. Note the correct usage of “they” in above dialogue! You’re doing it already!
Scene 1: Out to dinner!
Friend 1: Did you hear about Laur?
Friend 2: Who?
Friend 1: Laur. Our friend we’re meeting tonight. THEY used to go by Laura, but THEY recently came out as genderqueer.
Friend 2: She did?
Friend 1: Yes, and THEY are using “they/them” pronouns now.
Friend 2: But I don’t know how that works! This dinner will be unbelievably strained now!
Friend 1: Nonsense! You’ve used singular they pronouns before. It’s easy. If you move into a new apartment and someone left THEIR paintings of elephants behind, what would you say?
Friend 2: ‘Oh no, this person left a trunk-ful. THEY better come back and claim it.’
Friend 1: See it’s easy!
Laur: Hey guys! Did I overhear someone making an elephant pun?
Scene 2: Family Gatherings!
Family Member 1: Is Laur coming to this event? Or are THEY too good for us now that THEY live in California.
Family Member 2: Oh you know our young relative. THEY are so busy doing… whatever it is THEY are doing. What are THEY doing these days?
Family Member 1: Who really knows with that kid. Pass the stuffing!
Scene 3: Firing!
Co-Worker 1: Did you hear what happened with Laur?
Co-Worker 2: No, what?
Co-Worker 1: The bosses called THEM in on a Friday afternoon.
Co-Worker 2: Oof, rough. How did THEY take it?
Co-Worker 1: Not well. I heard THEY threatened to sic THEIR entire pack of weasels on them.
Co-Worker 2: That is not good. Hey, did you know that a pack of weasels can also be called a ‘boogle’?
Scene 4: Alternate Universes!
Space Alien 1: Look out, Gorp! A human just came through the space-time wormhole!
Space Alien 2: Oh my! Just look at THEM! What gender do you think THEY are?
Space Alien 1: Oh, Gorp, you know the only real way to know a human’s gender is to ask THEM.
Space Alien 2: But won’t THEY be offended?
Space Alien 1: I don’t think so, THEY would probably love a chance to more clearly communicate THEMSELF to the vast unknowable universe. Plus then it gives us a chance to explain our seventy-six genders.
Space Alien 2: Seventy-six and counting. Say… can humans breathe carbon dioxide?
Space Alien 1: Uh oh!
Just the beginning. Again the best way to know someone’s pronouns? Ask them. Make it a part of your introductions. Say, “Hi, I’m SUCHANDSUCH. Pronouns XYZed. What about you?”
And don’t worry. There are more and better resources out there in the multiverse. Here, shamelessly stolen from my older sibling, Sarah, are a few.
And so on.
Additionally, here is a list of substitutions for common gendered words. Again, ask people their preferences about specific ones if you’re unsure!
Girl/Boy: Child/Kid/Young Person
Niece/Nephew: Sibling’s Child/Younger Relative/Relative/*Nickname*/*Name*
Granddaughter/Grandson: Grandchild/Descendant/Child’s Child
Aunt/Uncle: Parent’s Sibling/Relative