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Ben Leggiero's Blog

Pronouns

Pronouns! For when you want to talk about someone without using their name over and over. Being trans, I’ve thought about and experienced a lot of very interesting things about pronouns over the years. Turns out, they’re both simpler and more complex than they seem.

I’d also like to mention that I talked about this in my previous blog in 2015, which I’m migrating to this blog along with this post. Feel free to go see how I thought about this over 5 years ago 😁

What pronouns are valid?

In general, if someone says they prefers a certain set of pronouns, that’s perfectly valid. Quite a few have come along over the past many years, and quite a few of those have fallen out of favor. I’m gonna take this opportunity to do my favorite thing and make a table!

Perspective & Count Implied Gender Subjective
_ love(s) cake
Objective
Morgan will give _ some
Possessive determiner
That's _ favorite
Possessive
That spot is _
Reflexive
More cake all to _
Common
1st Person Singular Genderless I Me My Mine Myself
2nd Person Singular You Your Yours Yourself
3rd Person Singular Feminine She Her Hers Herself
3rd Person Singular Masculine He Him His Himself
3rd Person Singular Genderless They Them Their Theirs Themself
3rd Person Singular It Its Itself
1st Person Plural We Us Our Ours Ourselves
2nd Person Plural You Your Yours Yourselves
3rd Person Plural They Them Their Theirs Themselves
2nd Person Plural
Southern U.S.A.
Y'all Y'all's Y'all's selves
Perspective & Count Implied Gender Subjective
_ love(s) cake
Objective
Morgan will give _ some
Possessive determiner
That's _ favorite
Possessive
That spot is _
Reflexive
More cake all to _
Uncommon
3rd Person Singular Demi-Feminine Fae Faer Faers Faeself
3rd Person Singular Genderless E Em Er Ers Emself
3rd Person Singular Xe Xem Xyr Xyrs Xemself
3rd Person Singular Sie Hir Hirs Hirself

These and a handful of others are further discussed on Wikipedia and Gender Wiki if you wanna check those out!

Singularity vs. Plurality

The Contentious One™: is “they/them” singular or plural? Well, I have a strong opinion on this, which comes from my experience living amongst a certain group of people:

Kinda happening alongside the movements to improve acceptance of gender and sexuality, is a similar movement for plurality, meaning multiple people sharing one body. These groups often refer to themselves as systems. Many folks in my life are or have been plural: Three of my ex-partners, two of my closest friends, one of my ex-metamours, and many of my friends, each share their body with at least one other person. For some of these folks, I only knew one headmate; for example, one of my closest friends for the past decade shares a body with someone else, but I don’t know the other at all. Plurality takes many forms, and I highly encourage you to read about plurality, since it’s a fascinating still-developing topic in society.

Clearly, it’s expected and acceptable for members and outsiders to refer to these plural systems using plural language. “They tend to like chillhop,” or “one of them is a girl,” or “we decided to start a YouTube channel.”

Because of this, I take the strong position that “they/them” can be used for both singular and plural subjects, but must be conjugated properly. For example, here’s a sample paragraph about an individual:

Try this sample quote by using the pronouns below:

They is taking a walk with me, and they stops to pick up a cool rock. They hands it to me and smiles, and I smile back at them. Their grin is far more valuable than the rock. They’s proud of themself for making me smile too.

What about other languages?

Another difficult subject is inherently-gendered languages. In English, we mostly encounter gendered language only with pronouns, but often also see gendered words like waitress or king. Quite often, they are in the form of “here’s the masculine root word, and a suffix which makes it feminine”, so one would call all wait staff “waiters”, all acting in a movie “actors”, and perhaps all monarchs “kings”. Societally, this is nearly universally accepted, even if begrudgingly as “politically-correct”.

Then, we see romance languages like Español and Français. Since I know Español, I’ve been a little active in the Español-speaking SGM community. While there are many proposals and debate over what’s the right approach, one that I prefer and which seems to be gaining traction is to generally replace the a and o which signify the gender of a word with e. For words like English has where there’s a base and then a suffix which indicates the gender (e.g. un vs una), simply drop the suffix. Of course, there are corner cases, so for él/ella, the replacement would be elle, etc.

Try this sample quote with and without gender:

Ariel reunió les ingredientes y hornear un pastel para Navidad. Ahora, elle tiene un pastel muy deliciose.

As you can see, the syntax hardly changes with this approach. Of course, other languages have their own specific challenges, but I am not a part of those communities. Hopefully, this global movement will encourage them to create genderless approaches to their languages as well 🤞🏼

My Pronouns

This is my blog, so I’m sure you’ve been wondering about my preferred pronouns. I have none! Call me him, her, them, em, it, whatever you want as long as you respect me. Still, I think it’s good to get that out of the way so you understand my experience. I don’t care what pronouns you use for me, as long as you use them respectfully. My birth family and co-workers call me he/him, my chosen family usually calls me she/her, and my girlfriend likes using random pronouns each time. All feel equally good to me! Though, there is one set of pronouns that I enjoy more than the others: e/er/em. I independently invented these when I was in college, around 2011.

It turns out that many others in the past have invented pronoun sets that are very similar (e/em/es, ey/em/eir, E/Em/Eir). I still prefer mine because I find them to be simpler (all lower-case, not too short), and also less connected to existing pronouns (some others seem to draw a lot from from they/them).

So, it warms my heart when folks use e/er/em pronouns for me, but other than that I honestly have no preference. This lack of preference is a part of my experience of being greygender. I still take great efforts to respect others’ pronouns; it’s a basic courtesy that doesn’t harm me and helps them greatly.