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Beyond They and Them: Have You Learned Your Neopronouns?


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I was just starting to get used to “they” and “them” as pronouns used for single individuals.

Well, not really. I’m still not sure whether I’m supposed to write, “They wants to go for a walk” or “They want to go for a walk” if I’m talking about a single human being. Even my spell check is throwing a hissy fit.

Not that I would ever use those ridiculous pronouns, other than to make fun of them. Male and Female He created them and that’s good enough for me.

But that’s not where it stops. Apparently, there’s more.

And if you don’t understand these pronouns in your workplace soon, you could be called up by HR.

They’re called neopronouns.

According to Rolling Stone:

With greater awareness and increasing acceptance of gender identities beyond simply “male” and “female,” people are opting to use pronouns that reflect that nuance. The first to gain traction in English (at least in the 21st century) was the singular use of “they/them,” which the Associated Press added to its Stylebook in 2017, and two years later, was named Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year.

But the use of the singular “they” still limited people to three pronoun categories, despite there being far more gender identities. And that’s where neopronouns like xe/xir, ze/zir, and fae/faer come in.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about neopronouns, the whole thing may seem a bit confusing, and possibly overwhelming. But given that we’re constantly learning new words — or new meanings for old words — it’s something we’re absolutely capable of doing. “There’s no way explaining a ‘bitcoin’ is easier than just using someone’s pronouns,” says JP, a 22-year-old Texan who uses xe/xir pronouns. “Neopronouns aren’t something that will go away anytime soon, because they fill in a societal need for gender-neutral pronouns that has been long overdue,” xe tells Rolling Stone.

So how do you know someone’s pronouns since you cannot make a judgment based on the way they look?

According to the New York Times:

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Neopronoun users may publish strict boundaries and preferences around behaviors, enthusiasms and hatreds. Many of them have defined lists of behaviors they find unacceptable around privacy or cruelty — sometimes referred to as “DNI” lists, short for “do not interact” — which they often outline in posts on Carrd, a service that makes single-page websites.

Carrd grew in scope during the protest movements of 2020; these days, many of its more than two million pages are used primarily for expressions of fandom and personhood. So, a social media bio will often include a link to an identity résumé on Carrd, often with a pronoun usage guide. (One sample: “Bug likes bugs.” “Those things belong to Bug.” “Bug wants to work by Bugself.”)

Many people who use neopronouns don’t just use one set. They select a handful, and show off their collections on websites like Pronouny.xyz, a site that provides usage examples for neopronouns. Users make their own Pronouny pages, like this one, which includes xe/xem/xyr, moon/moonself, star/starself, bee/beeself, and bun/bunself. “Sorry if I have too many pronouns,” the page’s creator wrote. “You can use just one set or just they/them if they’re too many!!”

I’ve read this article three times and I still don’t know what they’re talking about.

If any of you figure out what exactly they want to be called and why the heck we should care, please let me know.

I’ll be over at the nearest wall, banging my head against it.



 

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