Xe, xem, xir. Ve, ver, vis. They, them, theirs.
All of the above are gender neutral pronouns.
According to Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll, which polled 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34, found that 50 percent of millennials felt that gender was actually a spectrum, and that some people fall outside conventional categories.
The westernized concept of two genders is an outdated one. Throughout history, many cultures have found gender as non-static, like the hijras of India. The Ashtime from Ethiopia. The Sekrata from Madagascar. The Muxhe from the Zapotec people of the Oaxacan peninsula. Even Native Americans had their own concept: Two Spirit.
Richard O’Brien, creator of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” identifies as non-binary. Ruby Rose, actor for the upcoming season of “Orange is the New Black,” came out as genderfluid. Even Miley Cyrus is speculated to identify outside of the gender binary, although she doesn’t officially use a label to identify herself this way yet. Gender is not static, and to treat it like two polar labels - one or the other, with no room for exploration - is ridiculous.
Gender-neutral pronouns allow us to respect individuals who identify outside of the gender binary, who may or may not want to use gendered pronouns for their everyday living. Some of the writers for this newsletter use they/them and ze/zem, for example.
When one takes out biological sex out of the equation, and takes gender identity as the marker of a person alone, the plausibility of genders beyond man or woman start to make sense. Biological sex is the body a person is born with, whether that’s male, female, or intersex.
Chromosomes are unchangeable at our current state in science, but that shouldn’t stop one from transitioning, if that is one’s wish.
Full transition isn’t always necessary for those who identify in between genders, or regardless of gender. It is personal to the individual, and many experience dysphoria regardless of plans to transition, or not.
Dysphoria is the dissatisfaction and distress of one’s body image. Dysphoria occurs when one’s gender is not acknowledged or respected for the gender that they wish to be seen as. For many non-binary and transgender folk, this drives them to come out socially - with updated names, preferred pronouns (Not always gender neutral), changing their outward presentation to masculine, feminine, or androgynous (Although not required!), and allows them total autonomy with their identity.
So, is it necessary? Is this separate category redundant when one could identify as simply “gender non-conforming” with their birth gender? Many simply can’t be ID’ed as their birth gender in peace, because it still feels wrong. Non-binary gender identities are as real as the people who self-identify that way.
Gender is the intuition, the instinct, and the essence of an individual, and how they fit into society. Gender is a social construct, but a very active one. The segregation of gender norms are shown to be more damaging than helpful, as shown by Jody L. Herman, Williams Institute Manager of Transgender Research, and her Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress report.
In 2008, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force) launched a nationwide study of anti-transgender discrimination in the United States. Twenty percent responded by saying their gender was fluid, with part time as one gender, part time as another, and 13 percent responded with a gender not listed in the study.
In a later survey that went more into more depth of those 13 percent that identified as A Gender Not Listed Here, the survey found that these individuals were faced with more discrimination, even within the transgender and general LGBTQ community. Intersectional exclusion within a movement causes erasure, and thus, destroys the foundation of a safe space for all.
We must emphasize inclusion. Segregating the movement because others seem more “radical” is never a proper excuse. For even those within early LGBTQ history seemed radical, once upon a time. The umbrella term for these gender rebels is usually genderqueer, or non-binary. These individuals have an entire diversity within and outside of gender.
For example: Bigender people, who may identify wholly as a girl for a period of time, while they may identify as a boy another day, month, or year. Or even no gender as a default, and then switching into binary genders at any time. (Though the label demi boy and demi girl is a more fitting description for this.)
Agender people don’t identify as any gender, but may express themselves masculinely, femininely, or in a gender neutral way.
Gender fluid individuals feel that their gender fluctuates, and may not always be pinned down as a specific one.
There are a dozen other non-binary gender identities other than this. These individuals don’t use their identity as a political statement most of the time, but for many on the transgender spectrum, simply existing makes them a political statement. Whether voluntarily or not.
We must not turn away fellow queer folk from the mainstream community, simply because they seem “out there” binary-wise, or radical for simply embracing themselves. Going beyond constricting gender roles creates an enlightened society. When equality for all genders becomes indiscernible, not only in wage gaps, but also through double standards, like destructive body images or “pink tax” - only then will we all be equal.
This includes both gender binary folk who are proudly comfortable with themselves, and non-conforming folk who should equally feel comfortably proud in their own skin. Gender-neutral pronouns do not destroy gender, nor undermine it. They are tools to enhance it. Gender variance is a beautiful thing.
For more information, check out: Sam Killermann’s Genderbread Person Chart, GenderQueerID, PBS’s A Map of Gender, Ashley Mardell’s ABCs of LGBT series on YouTube, AVEN’s Gender Forums, Judith Butler’s books on gender theory, The Trevor Project, and Dr. Doe’s Sexplanations series on YouTube.
Theodor Kitsch is an upcoming college student, art enthusiast, and queer writer. When not attempting to deconstruct the patriarchy, Theodor finds himself marathoning 80s movies, reading about astrology, and filmmaking short films in his backyard. (And before you ask: He's a Taurus.)