My name is Jamie and my pronouns are they/them. This sentence does not come out of my mouth easily. I get flustered when I’m asked which pronouns I use. I don’t like being referred to as she/her. I never have and I never will. In the past two years I’ve made some half-assed attempts to request they/them pronouns, but then I backed off. I never interrupted the conversation to tell someone they made a mistake. This week I have to get over it. Superman had a mental block against Kryptonite. I’ve got a mental block against changing my pronouns.
They/them still sounds forced and artificial to me, but it goes with Jamie. Both are neutral, both simultaneously raise and answer questions. Both are chosen by me, not given to me at birth. Maybe I forgot how hard it was to change my name, but shifting pronouns seems harder.
I regularly attend a transmasculine support group at The Center. Each meeting starts with a go round of names and PGPs (preferred gender pronouns). The assumption is that everyone knows what they want to go by. Most use he/him, some use they/them, and no one admits they use she/her. Augie says “My name is Augie and my pronouns are Augie.” I’m stuck in a rut saying that I’m Jamie and I am pronoun challenged.
I don’t want to go through the rest of my life cringing at my pronouns or saying that it doesn’t matter when it actually does. It is increasingly disempowering for me to say I’m trans and then be referred to as “she”. This week I have an opportunity to introduce myself to a new group, and to reclaim they/them pronouns. Alexis and I will be giving a short presentation on organizing actions to the “big LGBT group with no name yet” that just formed in NYC to resist Trump. I’m going to try to make it clear at the meeting that I use they/them pronouns, and I’m going to try to stick with it, at least in LGBT circles.
I know a few people who actively use they/them pronouns in all aspects of their lives. All them are under 40. All of them complain about the difficulty of getting friends, co-workers, and family to use they/them consistently. I don’t know anyone over 50 who uses they/them. I feel faintly ridiculous doing this, but not ridiculous enough to keep putting it off. I’m not looking forward to discussing grammar, special snowflakes, or whether non-binary identities are for real. I’m not looking forward to discussing whether it is cisgender privilege to use they/them instead of he/him.
I am embarrassed that one of the impetuses for changing my pronouns is that I invited the guys from my transmasculine support group to the “big LGBT group with no name yet”. I’m expecting a few of them to show up. I invited them because I don’t want the new group to be the usual mix of lots of gay men and a handful of lesbians. I don’t want the T in LGBT to be silent. I also don’t want to be misgendered in front of my trans friends. At the intersection of my queer political circle and my transmasculine circle I want to be a third person singular they.
The start of the Trump/Pence apocalypse is an odd time to choose for splitting hairs over pronouns, but I’m not going to spend the next four years fighting for our lives while being referred to as “she” or while downplaying my gender identity. If I’m in it for the long haul, I’m in it as me.
Notes: I wish I was as eloquent and as forceful as Jack Monroe is in this post from their blog “Cooking On A Bootstrap“. In it Jack comes out as non-binary and challenges everyone to use the third person singular they when writing about them.
There are still naysayers who state that “they” is ungrammatical. For the grammarians out there, this is my favorite Trump grammar meme: