Gender Pronouns: When ‘He’ and ‘She’ Just Don’t Cut It

At birth, our parents get us handed to them followed by a chorus of “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.’” But what happens when we get older and find out we may not necessarily fit that typical binary? What if we feel we are the opposite gender, or neither gender, or a mix of the two? What if we feel we can’t commit or adhere to any gender label? That’s where proper pronoun use comes in.

For years, gender had been restricted to only “male” and “female” being socially acceptable. Now there are countless genders and sexualities to choose from. The Tumblr blog genderfluidsupport.tumblr.com compiled both a sexuality master list and gender master list, covering the A to Z of gender identities and sexual orientations. The gender master list alone contains 112 separate gender identities that have been coined by various individuals spanning from respected scholars from the field of sexuality studies, to simply the followers of the blog that have voiced their personal label of preference.

With so many genders to choose from, how can we adhere only to “him” or “her” pronouns? Now, we can use the word “they” as a gender neutral pronoun, but along with that comes grammatical confusion. Listed below is a brief synopsis of some different gender pronouns you can use if the above terms just don’t fit you.

Epicene pronouns (che/chim/chis/chimself): the definite gender-neutral pronouns as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. These pronouns are often used by the non-binary community.

Spivak pronouns (E/Em/Eir/Eirs/Emself): coined by Michael Spivak in The Joy of TeX, his text-set manual. It is meant to showcase all individuals without discriminating by gender, but it has become a relatively popular pronoun set among gender neutral individuals and has spawned many additional pronoun sets.

Elverson pronouns (ey/em/eir/eirs/emself): a derivative of Spivak pronouns coined by Christine M. Elverson. It is a relatively small community of definition, with only about 0.2% of the non-binary community identifying with these pronouns.

Nounself pronouns (varies by person): a pronoun set based on a certain noun, where gender does not desire to be adhered to. Typically this is used in the otherkin community, but has become a more common choice among gender-nonconforming communities. For example, “fae” pronouns, “fae/faer/faers/faersef,” are represented of the word “faerie.” The thing about nounself pronouns is that they are completely up to the user to decide.

It pronouns (it/its/itself): a sometimes problematic pronoun set that belongs to non-gendered objects or people. “It” pronouns can occasionally pose a problem in the non-binary community as it seems to dehumanize individuals, but 5% of participants in the most recent Nonbinary Stats survey identified with it.

No pronouns: some people in the non-binary community prefer to only be referred to by their name, or instead of “him” or “her,” they will use for example “that person” or “this kid.” Over one tenth of the gender neutral community prefers this to a traditional pronoun set.

One pronouns (one/one’s/oneself): a Standard English pronoun set in which a person’s gender is unspecified, therefore leaving gender hypothetical and unimportant to the statement.

Person pronouns (per/pers/perself): a set of pronouns that are defined to identify a person of any gender. It is not extremely popular in real-life practice, but it is used extensively in literature.

Neurologistic pronouns: the most common pronoun sets behind the singular “they,” usually combines different variations of nominative cases like “xe,” “ze,” and “zie.” Traditionally used to label intersex individuals, the fluidity that comes with neurologistic sets lets individuals essentially pick and choose which pronouns they desire to use for whichever case of usage.

These are only a select amount of personal pronouns that can substitute the initial pronouns that men and women are assigned at birth. These pronouns can work for anyone, whether you’re cis or trans or genderqueer or anything along the spectrum. The beauty of personal pronouns is that they are personal to the individual and can help us be our truest self with something as simple as a word.

Carina Stopenski (they/them/theirs) is a student at Chatham University where they are majoring in CreativeWriting—Nonfiction Focus, minoring in Women and Gender Studies, and certifying in Women’s Leadership. They identify as a Sapphic individual and enjoys bending traditional gender norms. Their main points of interest in writing are domesticity, gender roles, and the LGBTQIA community. Currently they are writing a young adult queer mythology series. Some of Carina’s favorite things include dogs, books, loose-leaf tea, and cupcakes. They are currently off social media, but would to hear feedback on their work! Contact Carina at carina.stopenski@gmail.com.