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2016's Word Of The Year

09/02/2016 13:09 GMT | Updated 09/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Time Magazine recently published an article describing the singular 'they' pronoun as 2016's word of the year. If this is an accurate title, it's surprising to me how many people are still unaware of its existence. Pronouns definitely need to be discussed more, especially considering how many people still find it hilarious to point out what they see as a grammatical error in using 'they' as a gender neutral replacement for the binary terms he or she. In recent years, society has become slightly more accustomed to the fact that gender is independent of sexuality and that a multitude of genders exist. However there is still such a long way to go and more conversation needs creating around the importance of gender-neutrality with pronouns and prefixes being two of the major examples.

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Too many people I know are either completely unaware of neutral pronoun options or don't realise how important such a simple thing can be. Misgendering someone through pronoun use is just as problematic as misgendering someone in any other way, so people need to do their best to make sure they use a person's correct pronoun choices. There are three forms of gender-neutral pronoun that are most commonly used; they/them, ze/hir, ey/em or alternatively people may alternate between multiple choices. It's not an enormous factor to remember but allows you to avoid denying someone their identity. We can still massively improve on creating awareness of correct pronouns in order for everyone to be accurately represented.

Despite this issue being something that I'm enormously passionate about, having had my eyes opened through the experiences of friends, I am personally a cisgender woman who generally uses she/her pronouns. For this reason I felt it wasn't as poignant for me to continue to rant and instead put out a request for people who use neutral pronouns to contribute experiences and comments:

SJ Kheir:

"I've only really had one negative experience when telling someone my pronoun is they. They chose the grammatical argument and then proceeded to use a double negative."

"On a more serious note for me it will always be the first step in my transition and at that stage for someone to ignore or ridicule you can be really damaging to your self-confidence. I think the more people see singular they being the used, the faster hard liners will eventually accept it! Plus if they're being really stubborn about it, ask them why they use singular you instead of thou. This phenomenon has happened before in English, so it's nothing new."

Iona:

"I personally use they pronouns and I try to use them as much as possible when talking about people I don't know that well. I present myself as more typically feminine therefore people presume that I'm a girl but I feel so far from that. The idea of people thinking of me as a girl makes me feel sick and I can't stand to be called her/she etc. But I feel comfortable in dresses and makeup. I don't want anyone to go through this, which is why I try not to use he or she pronouns until they have confirmed that that is what they would like."

"I once gave a talk to my class about trans and genderqueer issues and my teacher asked me how I would go about fixing these problems. I said that we need to be teaching everyone, at a mass scale, that gender is abstract and that your body parts have no correlation to your gender identification. It makes me mad that babies are born girls or boys and that textbooks still say "he/she" instead of they. These current norms are harming us nonbinary, genderqueer and agender folk."

"My parents refuse to use 'they' pronouns when referring to me. I still don't really know why. They both know how much dysphoria being called a girl causes me and they know that singular they is not grammatically incorrect. It hurts knowing that people so close to you, people that say they love you, people that literally raised you; deny a huge part of you.

It's something that I'm constantly thinking about and the idea that such a majority of society still thinks that one is either a boy or a girl is sickening. People need to be educated and we NEED to be making this change now."

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Lu Allan:

"Most people are completely unaware that people choose to use 'they' pronouns or in fact that NB identity even exists and I think until there is more widespread awareness of that, people need to keep bringing the issue up!"

"My own experiences with pronouns have been mixed. I started off really not caring whether folk still used 'she' to talk about me (I'm AFAB) [Assigned Female At Birth] despite me having explained that I was NB, but now my pronouns are something that really matters to me. There's a huge contrast between how I feel at uni compared to how I feel at home - at uni, everyone I'm around is totally fine with me being NB and generally uses my correct pronouns, but at home family members tell me it's a "challenge" and throw around my birth name like it's no big deal. I think when you routinely refuse to acknowledge/use someone's pronouns you're telling them that you've got some authority over their identity; that their identity isn't "real" (my Mum actually got annoyed with me about something else and brought my "made-up identity" into it whilst lashing out, despite usually being totally accepting - prejudice is deep-seated)."

"I understand that it isn't always easy to remember and that when you refer to someone using they pronouns around other, potentially less clued-up people, it can be awkward but I feel like the only way that's going to change is if people actually make an effort to make the singular they pronoun a normal part of life."

H Beverley:

"For me whenever I hear somebody getting my pronouns right it feels really comforting. It is reassuring, because in a way it reminds me that they respect me and care about my well-being. They/Them pronouns are what make me feel most comfortable and I think having friends around you who are willing to respect that and consciously make an effort to get your pronouns right and not assume other people's is really important."

Laragh Daniel W. :

"I've told people to use they/them pronouns and that I don't have a gender and have jokingly, dismissively been called "it" and calling someone 'it' is probably the most dehumanising thing you can do."

Harry Hender:

"I don't identify as female or male, just gender neutral. My correct pronouns are they/them/their. I think being blunt is the best thing unless someone questions it, then I am willing to answer in full details.

I also have family on Facebook and went to a family gathering at the weekend, they were all cool with my pronouns and it made me happy."

"I'm also trying to use the MX title. Applying jobs is hard when you're non-binary. I put MX in the applications and had MR in the reply back. I emailed back saying that MX is my title and just explained it's a gender neutral title. The person respected and in every email sent was MX."

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