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I've gotten a few questions about it, so I'd like to do a thread: what does it mean when someone describes themselves with a pronoun mix, like she/they?
(Spoiler: this touches on a lot more than just pronouns!)
So when you hear a pronoun mix like he/they, that's usually shorthand for "I use both he/him/his and they/them/theirs pronouns."
But what does that MEAN? What do you do with it?
Often, the most common conjugations get collapsed down for convenience and ease of use in speech. She/her unpacks to she/her/hers, ze/hir unpacks to ze/hir/hirs, and so on.
A lot of us do this already, and it seems to be common usage in even moderately trans-aware spaces.
First, I acknowledge this can be confusing for folks who have only been exposed to the standard she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc. pronoun format. They/he?? They went to the store with he friends??
First, a bit about the binary. Big news I know, but... most people don't neatly fit inside of it. Society wants us to think about gender like a slope—with most people being cis, and a few of us being trans—but why shouldn't it be a bell curve, like basically everything else?
Pronoun pairs can be used to communicate a number of nuanced things. Using she/they as an example, the most common and straightforward is, "I identify as a woman, but also as non-binary. I don't feel womanhood tells my full story, but I'm not fully divested from it, either."
All this is to say: gender is MESSY. It's ANALOG. And like everything else in the natural world, the categories we invent to contain it can only do so much.
Fortunately, we have greater access to identity language than ever before. Which brings us back to pronouns.
Something else it might communicate: "She/her is fine, but I also use they/them and would probably appreciate getting they/them'd from time to time."
It SOMETIMES means: "I use they/them, but don't have the energy to correct people, so the 'closest' binary pronoun is fine too."
My personal praxis, when given a selection of pronouns, is to use whichever one I imagine they get less often. Which harkens from what *I* used to mean when I used he/they: "I'm not a guy, but too scared to ask you to use they/them, and WAY too scared to ask you to use she/her."
Or perhaps, "I'm predominantly non-binary, but I want my masculinity to be recognized, and to be counted among men in contexts that collapse to a gender binary."
The order can matter, too. He/they and they/he are not usually experienced the same. They/he, for example, most commonly unpacks to "I use they/them pronouns, but if you can't hang with those, I won't be mortally offended if you use he/him."
It's actually pretty painless to ask for more guidance. "I use she or they pronouns." "Got it! Do you have a preference for one over the other?" And whatever they say, that's the deal.
YOU can use pronoun pairs! Dig deep, and ask yourself if your assigned gender tells your full story. You don't have to run away from it entirely to take a few steps towards something else. Very few things are either/or in this world. Enjoy the gender buffet!
But, that's just me. In case it needs to be said, you can't tell someone's personal experience of gender just from pronouns. And I'm just one, fallible trans person, so don't let anything I'm saying take precedence over what anyone else is telling you about themselves.
So, to summarize! Gender categories are baloney. Lived experience often falls outside and between them. Many of us represent this in language by using multiple gender pronouns. It can mean lots of things, but you can almost always respectfully ask for clarification.
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