Why I Use Gender-“Neutral” Pronouns for Everyone

If anyone ends up reading this blog, I’m sure it will not be long until someone creates a stink about my using gender-agnostic pronouns for transgender people. In order to head that controversy off at the pass, I’ve decided to explain at the outset my reasons for writing this way.

The fact is I use genderless pronouns for everyone in written language regardless of nir morphology, gender identity, expression, or assignment at birth. (I’m trying as much as I can to do the same in spoken language but it’s more difficult to keep it up. I also prefer the term gender-agnostic or genderless to gender-neutral because these terms do not assume that male and female are “opposite” sexes, like acids and bases that can be canceled out into a “neutral” solution.)

Here are my reasons for using genderless pronouns for everyone:

  1. It eliminates the problem of speshul snowflake pronouns. I don’t need to tell you my “preferred pronoun” and hope that you parrot it back to me. And you don’t have to maintain a roster of a dozen different pronouns for all of your friends.
  2. It focuses on what I can control rather than playing the victim. I can’t realistically expect that anyone is going to call me anything other than “he.” But it will probably be pretty obvious I don’t like it if I’m constantly using a genderless pronoun for everyone else.
  3. It prevents the conflation of sexual morphology, identity, and gender expression. How can you know someone identifies with a particular gender? There are people with a lifelong predominantly androgenic hormonal mix that identify more with the female gender and present themselves thusly despite not using hormone replacement therapy. There are people who have had a mastectomy and adopt a masculine gender presentation, but still identify with the female gender. There are transgender people who are too afraid to transition but still don’t identify with the genders they were assigned at birth. Can you assume how any of these people experiences themselves?
  4. It reduces the pressure placed on transgender people to pass as the “opposite” sex. Some transgender people find being referred to using the genders they were assigned at birth very painful. For this and other reasons, they make great efforts to hide their morphological characteristics and sometimes adopt exaggerated, stereotypical gender expressions to prevent the pain of what is sometimes called being “misgendered.” If we used genderless pronouns for everyone, no one could ever be misgendered, and we would be freer to adopt any gender expression we see fit.
  5. It honors the fact that all gendering is “misgendering.” Any time you have assigned someone to a gender you have closed your mind to the unique person in front of you and shut them away in a box.
  6. It avoids the oppression inherent in gendered pronouns. Imagine being raised in Douglas Hofstadter’s racially-gendered alternate reality. Even if it were commonplace, could you ever once justify using pronouns which were divided based on the color of one’s skin? Why then is it ever acceptable ever to use separate pronouns depending on any other morphologically-based caste division?
  7. It displaces the burden of legitimacy off of transgender and non-binary identies and onto cisgender and binary identities. So far, when I’m presenting as obviously transgender, the best result I can get even out of the most considerate allies is something like “So, you prefer ‘he,’ right?” I think it’s great that they’re trying. Sure, it would be slightly better if they said “what is your preferred pronoun?” but they would surely never ask this of someone who they have assumed is cisgender. If we all used genderless pronouns for everyone, it would be up to cisgender and binary-identified people to explain the legitimacy of their genders rather than the other way around.

Nicky: That’s what ne said.

“Cisgender” “Man”: Why did you refer to me as “ne?”

Nicky: It’s a genderless pronoun. I use it for everyone.

“Cisgender” “Man”: Please call me “he.”

Nicky: Why?

“Cisgender” “Man”: Because I’m a man!

Nicky: What do you mean?

“Cisgender” “Man”: I have [insert arbitrary characteristic not shared by all people assigned to the male gender at birth].

Nicky: Why does that mean I should anoint you into a superior caste using a different pronoun? Do you want a penis trophy too?

Yes Sir!

I hope not many people are offended by this approach. But I suppose the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

What do you think about using genderless pronouns for everyone? Let me know in the comments.

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9 thoughts on “Why I Use Gender-“Neutral” Pronouns for Everyone

  1. rimonim January 23, 2015 / 7:08 pm

    Very interesting and provocative take on pronouns. I have a lot of respect for your approach and I can see the merits here. I especially like your points about how no one asks cis people about their pronouns (I just did this to you this week! haha) and how using genderless pronouns for everyone puts the burden on cis & binary people to legitimize their genders. Also excellent points about how we don’t know others’ internal worlds.

    I have a different view/experience of gender as a whole that is grounded in my own cultural and spiritual context. I view gender as an expressive language/system of archetypes that humans use to articulate ourselves, communicate and interrelated, which has been tragically overlaid with oppressive systems including misogyny, cissexism, heterosexism, etc., along with racism, ablism, and all the rest. Because I have the view that there is something good and worthwhile hiding underneath the oppressive crap, I prefer to use pronouns in accordance with each person’s preference, with the understanding that this may change over time. Just my 2 cents.

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    • pasunhomme January 23, 2015 / 7:54 pm

      Thanks! I felt a little giddy when I read about your view of gender as an expressive language of archetypes and trying to see the beauty in gender under the oppression. I would be so happy if I could feel that way. Maybe I will some day. Right now I think I’m still stuck in the stages of grief somewhere between anger and bargaining.

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      • rimonim January 23, 2015 / 10:12 pm

        I really hear that & I felt that way for a long time. I found that the more I manifested my authentic self in the world, the more I became able to find that hidden beauty. I think you will what you’re looking for.

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  2. Aloriena July 17, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    I think it’s some what rude to not use one’s expressed preferred personal pronoun. If you tell me you want to be he/she/ne/it/excreta you have put forth a request to ignore that request is to say what you appear to me, or my feelings on the matter are more important than yours. You in fact were WRONG in that exchange. Referring to people as ne before they make a preferred personal pronoun known is okay but to do so after is insulting and rude; And you are doing it on purpose. Some Trans People Fight for the right to be called by their preferred personal pronoun, to do this to them is to negate their fight and tell them that they are wrong and the right they fought for is null and void. You are a rude person and some what conceited and hypocritical. You may think you are “enlightened” but you are a worse Bigot than the man in your example. You do not allow people the freedom of their preferred personal pronoun. Also if that was an actual exchange you owe HIM an apology.

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    • pasunhomme July 18, 2015 / 10:59 pm

      I do not deny anyone the freedom to request that others use a personal pronoun of their choosing. I do not seek to control others. The only one who is seeking to abridge anyone’s freedom here is you. Where is my freedom to refer to someone as I choose? I can refuse to use a preferred personal pronoun just as I can refer to call a police officer “sir” upon demand. If you disagree, you are in favor of fascism, not freedom.

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      • Aloriena July 20, 2015 / 7:34 am

        Since when is Politeness being Fascism? You are the Fascist. Anyone who disagrees with you is wrong only you are right, yup that’s Fascism. What you are stating is that YOUR right to call them whatever YOU want trumps THEIR right to be called what they want. Go ahead and refer to the police however you want just don’t expect them to let you have the “warnings” they can give instead of tickets. I call the Police Sir or Mam not because I have to but because it makes it easier on me in the long run. My entire Post was about Politeness and your RUDE behavior highlighted by the story you chose to tell. Your attacking me and calling me a Fascist only points to your own fascism and your belief that you alone are right in this well guess what you asked for opinions so get off your high horse and listen. You DO deny others every time you go right ahead and do as you want instead of listening to what they want. It’s your right to do that and be RUDE, but do not post something like this and expect me not to call you RUDE. You will note that I am not being like you I am in fact going by your stated preferences and not calling you “SIR” every time I can. The reason I am doing this is because my parents raised me to be Polite. When you asked “WHY” when the Cy-gender Man asked to be called him you were in the wrong your “What do you mean?” was just plain CRUDE. You knew what he meant but instead of being polite and listening to his request you decided to be a RUDE hypocrite.

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      • pasunhomme July 20, 2015 / 3:40 pm

        I’m quite serious. What does it mean to be a man? I’d rather be rude than insincere.

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      • Aloriena July 22, 2015 / 2:02 am

        To be a man is to be ether legally or socially accepted as an adult male person. Which I am sure you know. Personal pronouns are all about social acceptance. From the way you present it you are not truly sincere about asking “What dose it mean to be a man?” It looks more like you were bating him.

        In the case of Trans people getting ether the legal or social acceptance can be hard; the legal requiring one to go through several hoops; the social requiring one to often change peoples perspectives of you. Social acceptance take hard work and time a trans must be more feminine or masculine than people born to the gender because they must “prove” themselves to the “ether this or that” mindset held by some people. Social acceptance can be hindered by people using trans for fame or treating it as a joke or comedy prop. This is what some people fight against to be called by their preferred personal Pronoun.

        I think that there is a call for using ze, ey, hu, or any of the others on form letters that refer to a person that could be any gender. Such as the letters you get from a school with he/she in every other sentence. Using such pronouns work when referring to someone who’s gender Identity is unknown is certainty less embarrassing.

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