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Using pronouns when you’re Non-Binary

Max explains what Non-Binary means and what to do if you're confused about pronouns


Written by Max Ní Fhloínn and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


"A person who identifies as having a non-binary gender may use gender neutral pronouns such as they/ them and theirs."

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Non-Binary Transgender is probably nothing new to you.

Trans awareness has gained media attention over the last while, especially with reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. For those of you who may have missed it, TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) describes transgender as such, "Transgender refers to a person whose gender identity and/or expression differ from the sex assigned to them at birth. This term can include diverse gender identities."

If I were to ask a random group of passer byes on the street what does non-binary mean, very few will know and I'm sure a select few may even joke that it's a computer coding gender/sexuality. Non-Binary in the terms of gender identity as quoted from TENI's website is as follows: "Non-Binary is an umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside of the gender binaries male and female. This includes individuals whose gender identity is neither exclusively male nor female, between or beyond genders. Similar to the usage of transgender, people under the non-binary umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms."

To break it down simply, imagine the binary genders of male and female as two boxes. If your gender identity aligns with binary male or binary female regardless of trans or cis* experience, then your gender fits inside one of these two boxes (cisgender is a non trans person, someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth).

Meme about being non binary

However, for a Non-Binary person, their gender identity and/or expression exists in the region that is not the box of male or female. It's like if you image the male box to be blue and the female box to be pink. A Non-Binary person doesn't fit in those boxes or have those colours. They would be more purple if they identified as having a mixed gender, or they could be black meaning they tick every gender all mixed in one or they could be white, an absence of feeling any gender at all. A non-binary person may describe themselves to be Androgynous, Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Agender or Gender Varient. A person who identifies as having a non-binary gender may use gender neutral pronouns such as they/ them and theirs.

Being someone who identifies as Non-Binary, I like to use the gender neutral pronouns of they/them, and yes grammar nerds; singular they is grammatically correct. Unsure of someone’s pronouns? Your safest bet would be to go neutral with they/them, it's much less hassle than saying he/she which is quite derogatory, unless you are told otherwise.

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Published November 10th, 2016
Last updated November 14th, 2016
Tags trans non-binary gender
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