Why I prefer male pronounsPosted: June 30, 2014 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: androgyny, coming out, gender identity, gender neutral, genderqueer, language, lgbtq, non-binary, preferences, pronouns, queer, trans, transgender 22 Comments
I am someone who is inhabiting a world in between genders. There is a growing set of words, a subculture of sorts, and there are political agendas surrounding this experience. And in theory, I am on board with all I’ve seen (and let me clarify that what I’ve seen is almost entirely online at this time, and not reflected in the world I actually live in). But in actuality, not every part of it appeals to me personally. Which is OK – I can still support it while simultaneously getting the word out that not all non-binary people have the same needs, preferences, and agendas.
I’m going to go with a break-down of three categories: Pronouns, Bathrooms, and Legal Designations / Forms. And talk a little about the discussions I’ve seen, but also how I personally feel.
Pronouns: I prefer to be referred to with male pronouns: He/Him/His. The reason for this is: because it is my preference. It really is as simple as that – no explanation needed. It feels the most right (although no pronouns actually feel “right” for me). That’s all it comes down to – a feeling.
Many non-binary people go by They/Them/Their, along with a myriad of more obscure pronouns. Some people have assumed that I go by They/Them/Their, because I identify as non-binary. That is fine. It’s not my preference, but I’m not offended by this assumption, nor do I mind being referred to in this way. I have felt some pressure (from within myself only) to adopt the They/Them/Their/ set in order to align myself more with an idea of a non-binary identity, and to take a stand / stand-out more for what some people truly feel they need (which is to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns – it is definitely a need for some people). But, bottom line, it does not feel right for me. Male pronouns feel (more) right.
(And I imagine if I really break it down, this correlates to how I see my gender: I do not feel as if I am without gender, genderless, agender, or gender neutral. Instead, I feel as if I am an amalgam of genders, a kaleidoscope. And so it feels right that I view my identity’s make-up as pieces from all genders, rather than a rejection of anything that is gendered.)
I have seen many preferred sets of pronouns online (such as Ze/Hir/Hirs, Ey/Em/Eir/Eirs, Xe/Xem/Xyr/Xyrs and also ones based off of nouns). But in actual real life, I have come into contact with only one person, so far, with a preference for a set like this – and I immediately proceeded to mess it up when talking out loud. I have met a couple of people who prefer They/Them/Their, and that feels immediately do-able in real life, because these are words we’re all familiar with pronouncing. And… that’s kinda the difference – much of the online world is written, it’s visual. And it’s easy to backspace and try again. The real world involves much more talking out loud, at a conversational pace, and I personally am a long way from incorporating these newish words naturally into a conversation. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to. It doesn’t mean I don’t support it. It means, in practice, I have a lot of work to do. And that work is difficult to do if I do not have people in my life who want to be referred to in this way – it’s hard to practice if I’m not actively practicing, essentially. And, since I am someone who identifies as non-binary, I might be, in theory, someone on the most sensitive, most open, end of the spectrum, in terms of the general populous. I have a lot of trouble with it, from a practical perspective, at this time.
To summarize: Incorporating these newer pronouns is do-able. I support it. For some people, it is not a preference, but a need, in order to feel comfortable. I personally do not need or prefer to be referred to by gender neutral pronouns. I have a long way to go in terms of enacting this language. Which, I believe, means the general population has a much longer way to go. It’s hard to make progress if I’m not actively using the words in regular conversation. At this time, I am not actively using the words in regular conversation. This is where I’m at with pronouns. It’s hard to gauge where the world at large is at, but I imagine progress will be very very slow. I’m just thinking pragmatically here. Ideally, I wish it were easy.
This got a lot longer than I thought it would. It’s complicated! So again I’m going to break the topics up; look forward to yet another series! Up next: part 2 – Bathrooms and part 3 – Legal Designations / Forms.
I so appreciate this. I would go for the more obscure and unknown pronouns – Ze/Hir/Hirs, Ey/Em/Eir/Eirs, Xe/Xem/Xyr/Xyrs – if they were more mainstream and used. However, like you, my inability to remember them lets me know it will be likely even more difficult for others. Leaving then the binary or the ambiguously placed They, them, their. Which I do not like either primarily because these so remind me of my closeted lesbian days and the language I used before fully owning who I am. I do not want to go backwards. This then leaves male/female. And while I consider myself a two-spirited man, seeing he/him/his on paper is still odd. but then again so is seeing she/her… So I am in a quandary where nothing quite feels right.
It’s interesting that you say the language you formerly used involved they/them/their – do you mean that you used to refer to yourself in that way when you were closeted as a way to distance yourself? Or something else? Say more!
When I was more closeted as a lesbian (out to some but not everyone, mainly clients) and asked if I am married or in a relationship – and spoke of my partner I would say “they” or “them” instead of she. It was a way of hiding the truth of being gay. So I associate the use of those pronouns with hiding and I really do not want to hide.
Ahhhh, that makes perfect sense now! I’d never really thought of that before, but it seems like that’d be a really strong negative association!
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Yeah, pronouns are really difficult and complicated. In my case I don’t have much of a preference in Spanish or Catalan -though I will be very happy if you give me a masculine one-, I like ‘she’ in French and they/them in English.
I’m curious – is Spanish your first language? And if so, how do you feel about the masculine/feminine nouns plus masculine/feminine versions of adjectives? Would you say it contributes to an even more binary view of the world, in your culture? Or maybe actually less because it’s so commonplace that it loses its significance?
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I speak Catalan and English at home, but I’d say Catalan is my first language. It’s very similar to Spanish however.
I don’t think the masculine/feminine nouns have any importance whatsoever; actually some good jokes can come out of it sometimes. There isn’t much meaning behind a chair being feminine and an umbrella being masculine. If adjectives refer to objects, then I don’t think it really emphasizes the binary.
The adjectives that refer to people, however, are based on that person’s gender/sex also, so I think they are hell personified. Whenever you say somebody’s name you must also add first a word that says whether they are female or male (La for females, el for males), which I find very disturbing.
I usually mix up male and female adjectives in the same sentence when talking about myself, as well as changing my pronouns just to confuse people 😛 . Pity we don’t have neutral pronouns.
I wish that gendered pronouns were as obsolete in English as gendered nouns are (gendered nouns didn’t make the jump from Old English to current times – but exist in many other languages). I’d be interested in knowing how Spanish speaking non-binary people deal with it.
My preference is they/them/their or Jamie; but I try to respect other’s choices. I’ve temporarily given up on making a project out of changing my pronouns because it is a “bigger issue for Donna than for me”. I never have to use one to refer to myself (I, me, mine) and actually don’t have to hear the she/her/her’s used to refer to me very often either. I’m not sure what I’ll do in the long run.
The one thing I am a maniac about is trying to get rid of honorifics (Ms. Mrs. Mr. etc.), both in person and in print.
Yes, I agree about getting rid of honorifics! (in reference to myself, I mean.) I’ve heard of a new(ish) word, “Mixter” or “Mx.” as an alternative, and although I like how it sounds and looks, I’m not sure if I’d try to adopt it for myself or not yet…
*creeps in* http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Gender_neutral_titles
I’ve come to find that people I know don’t necessarily feel easy about calling me he, so have resorted to calling me by my name instead. It’s not a bad solution, and this way no one feels too uncomfortable.
But I agree, I much rather being sir-ed than ma’am-ed. And the word ‘she’ just makes me cringe.
Yeah, the word “she” does make me cringe too. I’d like to expel it from all areas of my life. Working on it…
It bugs me when teachers or professors correct my use of plural pronouns for singular subjects in writing: It may be “stylistically” appropriate to use he/she, but it is not inclusive and relies on assumptions. Unless I’ve asked, or been told, I’ll stick to “they.”
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My therapist, who is otherwise pretty good (and is specifically a gender therapist) has really been pushing me hard to make the “pronoun switch” lately (among other things). So I have been looking around at what other people write about pronouns. It has been really frustrating. I am happiest with whatever makes the least fuss, but that does not seem to be an acceptable choice. I keep feeling like everyone is pushing me to be properly transgendered, to be properly FTM, to be the “man” they think I am inside this female body. Or even worse, to be appropriately genderqueer, whatever that means. All this pressure, its been freaking me out really bad.
So many labels, so many tiny little boxes, and me feeling so intensely claustrophobic from it all… I want none of the boxes, none of them feel good. I wish I could be just “a person” to others the way people are all “just people” to me. I know, totally not realistic, but it would be nice.
Anyway, all that blah blah blah (sorry, by the way) to say I *really* appreciate where you say that your choice is simply your choice. No validation, no explanation, nothing to “excuse” or “legitimize” your choice. I can’t explain why any of the above, including objecting to switching pronouns. I just don’t want to. It doesn’t feel right… I get that its a big deal to others, and thats fine. But I get my choice too, right?
I’m very curious to see what you have to say about bathrooms and legal designations.
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Oh god, Pixie, I know exactly what you mean about the pressure (and panicking about it—that brought me right back). It made me really resent trans men for a while, unfair as that was, because it seemed like everyone thought I should either be one or stop trying to figure out what I wanted from gender. (Mix with envy about aspects of medical transition and you get an unpleasant combination that involves, among other things, watching transition vlogs for hours on end until you are nauseous and crying. Repeatedly. For years.)
I’m still far from figuring it out, but I’ve had surgery now and I still haven’t made a pronoun change-over. I go by different pronouns in different parts of my life, and it’s sometimes awkward, but currently *way* preferable to trying to decide what single pronoun I prefer, much less enforce it. Not only do you not have to do transition in the order they tell you, you don’t have to ever do the parts of it that don’t make sense for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
(Janitorqueer, I don’t mean this to be a comment on your pronoun pref at all! I just happen not to have one. (for now? ever? who knows.) I like your breakdown of aspects of social gender, and am looking forward to the rest.)
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I am both really glad I’m not the only one who gets this, and really sad that I’m not the only one that gets this. I was exceptionally lucky in a lot of ways, I apparently presented exactly as they would expect of a real trans guy and I was such a complete wreck when I finally “confessed” that no one questioned anything I asked for. I went from full-time pretending to be female to a prescription for hormones and an appointment for top surgery in about 3 weeks, and the surgery literally happened as soon as I wanted. I have heard of real trans guys who have to wait YEARS just for hormones, its hard not to feel guilty about it.
Thank gods they can’t sew breasts back on, but I’m terrified of losing my testosterone prescription. I didn’t think it would do anything since its such a low dose, but with it I feel alive for the first time since puberty and I can’t face going back to how things were without it. So I can’t just walk away from all this and the pressure just keeps piling up, especially over pronouns and names and such. And I have no answers for any of them.
okay, sorry, done ranting… I know, I’m crazy, its nothing new.
I like that everyone here thinks its a personal choice.
Most definitely a personal choice! Some health professionals may not feel it’s a personal choice, and may try to steer you in one direction or another. If you come against resistance about your choices, if you’re able to, I’d suggest trying to find new professionals who’ll help you feel safe and supported. I know it’s easier said than done though…
There’s no wrong way to be trans*. There are no criteria to fulfill other than your own happiness and comfort. It’s not about who is really trans* or who is trans* enough… I look forward to connecting more with you through writing!
For the record, it took me over two years to change my pronouns, even after transitioning in a lot of other ways. And for about 6 months, it still felt weird and wrong. On some days being called “he” still feels weird, though not wrong.
So, take your time. Don’t push yourself until you’re ready, and if you don’t feel ready yet it’s probably because you’re not.
It may seem like a small word… yet, what is a pronoun but a gendered representation of us? Pronouns are really really hard.
[…] a three-part series on his own ways of navigating the world as a genderqueer person, including why he prefers male pronouns, feels comfortable in women’s washrooms, and avoids selecting a gender on official […]
I’ve been thinking a lot about pronouns too. I get read female about 99% of the time. If anyone is ever unsure it’s mate or dude. Yet, I identify with ‘he/him/his’. I’ve not asked anyone to call me by these pronouns yet, because I’ve convinced myself it’s impossible (working on these limiting beliefs). I’m curious to know a bit more about how you went about asking people to use ‘he’ pronouns (ie is this just close friends or everyone) and the hiccups you’ve experienced along the way.
I’m happy to elaborate! It’s definitely been a process. As of now, it’s somewhere in between close friends and everyone: large friend group plus many acquaintances consistently use male pronouns. And I try to make sure new people I meet also know this about me, so that they can get on board quicker and easier. The more people around me are doing it, the more it is going to catch on! I’ve told family, some of them are slowly coming around, others may not ever. And I have yet to come out at work, but it is a goal.
Fortunately in my case, I decided to tackle this (even if just small scale, with close friends) when I moved back to the area after college. Which meant it was sort of a new starting point in a lot of ways. In retrospect, I’m kinda amazed at myself because even though I felt unsure about pretty much everything else, I seemed so sure about male pronouns, and never really looked back.
In terms of hiccups, the one thing has been just hearing female pronouns and not feeling like I can do anything about it in the moment. I’d like to get better about that. Also just feeling like my family might not really understand, and should I at some point push the issue, or just leave it? For now, the answer is just leave it…
It IS possible! If you have any friends who are extroverted and love to advocate, I’d suggest asking them to help spread the word, or to correct people in the moment on your behalf. (I have friends who do this and am so grateful for these people. Like I said, I cannot seem to get myself to correct others in the moment. Maybe one day.) Also, any opportunities to formally introduce yourself (like during a go-around in a group) are excellent times to let a bunch of people know. It can feel intimidating, but I’ve found that it’s an ideal time for me, personally.
Interestingly, never once in my experience has my telling someone my pronouns led them to ask me any questions about it. I really don’t know why! I wouldn’t mind answering peoples’ questions!
Also, this took me a long time to do, but I recently made an announcement about it through facebook, and that might have been a good way to reach more people!
Let me know if you have any other questions about it!
Thank you so much for this thoughtful elaboration. It’s so useful to hear how this has worked for you in the real world, and I really appreciate some practical tips to get the ball rolling. My current goal is to tell my best friend today!