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They and their are gender-neutral pronouns preferred by many non-binary individuals. These pronouns are used in preference to the pronouns typically associated with an individual’s gender assigned at birth, e.g., he and his, she and hers.
They and their, when used as inclusive pronouns, help fill the gap in English language since it does not have any non-binary, third-person pronouns as some languages do. Incorporating these terms into common usage recognizes gender identities outside the binary genders.
Many non-binary individuals prefer the pronouns they and their, including many people who identify as transgender, gender-fluid, and gender-queer. While they and their have been plural pronouns for many years, they are both now recognized as a singular pronouns when a person’s gender is unknown or non-binary. Many gender-fluid individuals prefer they and their because it celebrates that they have more than a single gender. Using they and their for any non-binary person who prefers these pronouns shows acceptance and respect.
They and their are always used in preference to it, which is used to denote objects rather than people. Therefore, using it instead of they or their dehumanizes non-binary people and may be insulting or even threatening.
While most non-binary people say they and their are good options if you are unsure of someone’s preferred pronouns, not every non-binary person prefers those pronouns. It’s also not always apparent whether someone is non-binary just by looking at them. Asking a person’s preferred pronouns and using them is the easiest way to show respect for gender identity. Incorrectly assuming you should use they or their could potentially make someone feel alienated or dysphoric.
On the flip side, if you identify as non-binary and use they and their, be open with your preferred pronouns when you meet new people. Most people will happily comply if you let them know how you would like to be addressed.