I had a dispute with my husband over the weekend about pronouns. My older offspring is agender, meaning they identify as neither male nor female, and as you can tell from the beginning of this sentence, they use “they/them” pronouns.
My husband has an issue with this. Not because he isn’t okay with my offspring being agender, but because he gets stuck on the fact that in school, we’re taught that “they” and “them” are plural pronouns, and he can’t wrap his head around the idea of using those pronouns for an individual. Individuals are singular, not plural.
I can understand the problem. When he and I were growing up, people didn’t talk about being transgender, agender, etc. People were male or female. Occasionally the news would report about someone who had undergone gender reassignment surgery, but that was about it. Everyone was either “he” or “she.”
I’m glad that isn’t the case any longer. People are more free now to identify as they choose to identify. But it does cause some issues with pronouns, at least in the English language. English doesn’t include any standard-use gender neutral pronouns that apply to humans, and I haven’t met anyone who accepts being called “it.”
The good thing about language is that it evolves. People have introduced attempts to create gender neutral pronouns. “They” and “them” are becoming accepted usage as singular pronouns for individuals who don’t identify as a binary gender, or for individuals whose gender is unknown. Someday soon, we will have words to use to accurately describe and discuss each other, and I think that will be awesome.
It just might not be so easy to convince my husband to let go of his high school grammar classes.