16 October 2015

The case for "they" as a singular pronoun

Throughout my education, "they" was always a plural pronoun. My literature teacher seemed to relish pointing out subject-verb agreement in our homework and essays. In fact, she corrected us verbally, as well, over the course of class discussion.

Language was binary.

But life is not.

On Monday, I read an outstanding post from Casey over at Life with Roozle about coming out as genderqueer. She says:
I'm taking up space in this in between, in this neither and both and everything I've always been and everything I want to be. Even though it's terrifying. Even though it changes nothing. Even though it changes everything. That's how language works. It's just language. 
Language is everything. Language defines us even when we don't want it to.
Yes, Casey. Yes, it does. I can't imagine how hard it was for them to write that post, but I'm so, so glad they did.

The problem with language (right now) is that it is molded by people who can sometimes be closed-minded and traditional. They have a very specific perspective of what the world is, and they use language to perpetuate it. When that worldview is binary (particularly in gender constructs), language becomes binary, as well.



And they is relegated to a plural pronoun.

But humanity changes and evolves and develops. Language, by its very nature as an expression of humanity, must change, as well. If society is no longer strictly binary, why is language?

I wholeheartedly support the use of "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Casey, and others, already prefer they/them/their over gender-specific pronouns. So it makes sense that society accepts this reclamation of language to fit the needs of human expression.

I know that Puck and Tink will likely learn in school that "they" is a plural pronoun and should be used as such. Okay. But when they get home and tell me that, I will let them know that in our non-binary society, some people prefer to be referred to as "they" because not everyone identifies as strictly male or strictly female.

There are shades of purple in our pink-and-blue humanness.

What are your thoughts on "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun? Why?

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