Learning to “THEY”: Embracing the gender neutral pronoun

they-gnm-canvasOur latest T-shirt design is a simple challenge to the way we speak. The third person “they” has become a pronoun of choice for many who embrace an identity somewhere in-between or outside of the gender binary; people who define themselves as gender creative, gender fluid, genderqueer, or any of the other emergent gender terms that exist alongside the man and woman labels. Gender in the 21st century no longer comes in two flavours, nor has it ever, really — although awareness of the many minority gender expressions are only now starting to gain true visibility in popular culture.

Language is an important tool that can promote inclusiveness, awareness, and acceptance. And if you are wondering how to use the singular “they” pronoun in this way, here are some examples:

Sam is a 21 year old university student and prospective nurse. They hope to specialize working with transgender and queer youth once they graduate. Having been born with an intersex condition, Sam has always felt different from their peers. They do not identify as male or female, preferring the label bi-gender. Their parents are fully supportive, as are their siblings, and Sam is a happy, well-adjusted adult.

Bruce is a 45 year old lawyer and transgender activist. Fifteen years ago they transitioned from female to male and they have had all their legal documents updated accordingly. However, lately Bruce has come to strongly identify as genderqueer, meaning they don’t consider themselves to be one gender or another, instead existing outside of the gender binary altogether. Bruce is working towards having gender boxes removed from legal and government forms, such as passports, as they do not believe that these types of check boxes serve any useful purpose other than discriminating against those who do not fit into the options provided.

Violet is an eight year old girl who was born male. Violet likes to play with dolls and their mother’s makeup but they also enjoy playing hockey with their two brothers. Violet is not their legal name, but it is the name they prefer to go by. For now Violet goes to school as a boy and is a girl at home, although eventually they hope to be recognized as a girl at school too. Violet isn’t yet sure if they want to go on hormone blockers as they approach puberty.

It may take some getting used to for those who have not had a lot of opportunity using pronouns other than “he” or “she” to refer to individuals, but “they” is a surprisingly versatile and handy pronoun to have in our toolbox. All it takes is a little practice.

Join us in promoting the use of inclusive language. Buy your “they” t-shirt today!


Concept by: Stefan // Design by: Athena