A lot of us want to become better at communicating properly with the LGBTQ+ people. This could be the heterosexuals or people within the community itself. The pronouns they and them are technically plurals in the English language. Unlike in most Indian languages where the equivalent words indicate respect. In Hindi, ‘Aap’ can be plural or singular depending on the addressee. So using ‘they’ and ‘them’ in Indian languages are far more convenient.
But using ‘they’ and ‘them’ as pronouns are a new introduction to the English Language. Which makes grammar, speaking, addressing, writing, and doing anything involving the language a tad bit harder. We are all wired a certain way and we need to be extra aware when we address people. It is just a form of respecting a person for who they are, and what they want to be identified. It is a basic act that we perform on a regular basis. So why do we struggle to extend this inclusivity to everyone?
The Complexities of Using They and Them In Everyday Life:
It is Uncommon
There are very few moments where you get to meet and interact with people who prefer these pronouns. As a result, this simply reduces the opportunities to use the pronouns. This leads to the non-entrance of these pronouns to the daily language. So when one does get the chance to interact with an individual who prefers ‘they’ and ‘them’ their language keeps switching back and forth, making the situation uncomfortable for both.
The language does not sound Grammatically coherent
As a writer, I face this problem whenever I write an article, a message, or even a mail. The sentences do not come to me automatically, and I have to rethink and ensure that the sentence still makes sense. The usage of ‘they’ and ‘them’ automatically lead me to make everything following it into a plural format. But then I remember that Language grows to fit the newer needs and demands.
There is no duality in the person, it is a fluidity. They do not want to be seen as two people merged into one. ‘They’ and ‘them’ have to be followed with singular words. So when one is writing using these pronouns, a little extra vigilance is expected. It is still comparatively easier to write than to speak. But as avid texters and commenters, it is important to be aware of what we write. Small or big, these changes can help make your language more inclusive.
The usage of They and Them changes more than just language, it changes how we perceive the person
As mentioned earlier, there is a problem of plurality that reflects on how we perceive an individual. When we say they or them, we are wired to think of more than one person. So the idea does not sit well in the palpable state of language. But as and when we use it, the idea becomes more coherent, and language becomes easier. We can now look at a person who moves from one to another instead of two or more genders conflicting with each other.
Is there really a difference?
The answer is a big, fat, YES. It does make a difference in how aware and responsive you are to the world around you. LGBTQ+ individuals already have an increased number of battles as compared to others. So when the community can put up with the numerous questions, doubts, and judgments on a daily basis, the least one can do is ask how people want to be addressed and address them as they prefer. It is a small effort that will make the world better.
Finally, coming to the point
Who prefers to be called as they as them? The simplest way is to ask. Ask people how they want to be addressed. ‘They’ and ‘Them’ are usually used by Gender-fluid, gender-neutral, gender-queer, and gender non-conforming individuals. But ‘They’ and ‘Them’ are not the only options. They are just popular pronouns.
An article from Time also states,
Some people choose to use the gender-neutral pronouns “ze/hir/hirs” (pronounced “zee/here/heres”) or “ey/em/eir” (pronounced “ay/em/airs”), among others.
And the alternative for Ms, Mr, Mrs, is Mx.
This might seem like you have the liberty to make up words as you please, but it is definitely not the case. Even though the need for gender-less pronouns rose from the LGBTQ+ community, others can also use them.
If you feel more comfortable navigating the world without gendered expectations, then gender-neutral pronouns can work for you. There’s no identity you have to claim in order to use genderless language.
Let’s make it happen. Let us take a step towards becoming more tolerant and open to diversity. Small doses of effort each day is all we need to make the world a better place. Learn and share your learnings.