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How To Address Transgender People

This is a grammar blog. If grammar makes you angry, stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Pronouns are tough. I, you, me, her, him, they, he/she/it, them… it can be extremely confusing to know which pronoun to use in a sentence. Even “smart” people screw up their pronouns. Just Friday, Large wrote this tweet:

Large had a successful career in finance that spanned decades before he was hired at Barstool. I assume math was the primary skill needed for his job. But it makes me sad to see him use “I” when he should have used “me.” In truth, it’s not an easy one. By setting apart “@willcolon66 and I” as a parenthetical, Large makes the sentence clunky and difficult to follow. Not that I’m surprised. The guy used to bash a calculator with his caveman hand, grunting stock prices on Wall Street. Still, he should have known that he is part of a compound object here (as opposed to a subject), so “Willie and ME” is the correct phrasing.

If you want to make it easier, just take away the other pronoun. “… either member of the greatest love affair in the history of Barstool (me).” You wouldn’t say “I” there. But you guys know that. You’re readers! Unlike Large. I wish I had him for our show’s Secret Santa. I’d give him a whole bunch of young adult novels, like the Percy Jackson Lightning Thief series. Or the Hunger Games books. Or maybe Harry Potter? Gahhh I don’t want to overwhelm him. Those can be long.

The point is, pronouns are tough. And today, pronouns may be more important, and more confusing, than ever.

(From this point forward, this blog will be informative instead of funny. Please proceed at your own risk.)

The transgender community has adopted a number of different pronouns with which to identify themselves. Given that transgender people don’t identify along binary gender classifications (male and female), it makes sense that they wouldn’t use traditional, gender-based pronouns (he/him, she/her). Thus, the transgender community adopted a number of non-gender specific pronouns. You can see a full list of these here, but I want to focus on what I think is the most common trans pronoun: “they.

Many trans people use the pronoun “they/them.” If you’re a grammar enthusiast like me, this goes against some pretty basic lessons you learned at a young age. How can “they” refer to one person? It’s a plural pronoun. What?! How dare “they”? And by that, I mean all of them! A group!! Many!!!!

Well, they can do it because… who cares! Grammar changes. Time was, you couldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. Now, we’ve realized that it can make more sense to do so. If that doesn’t satisfy you, try this: many trans people feel that their gender identity is comprised of multiple parts/ideas. It’s fluid. Therefore, a plural pronoun makes perfect sense. When you’re addressing someone who uses “they,” don’t think about how many people are standing in front of you. Instead, understand that multiple identities are standing in front of you. It may take a few tries, but you’ll get the hang of it!

I wrote this blog because in recent weeks, I’ve been crossing paths with a trans person quite often. They are absolutely wonderful, but I’ve been nervous when talking to them because I don’t want to offend them by using the wrong pronoun. I figured some of you might be in a similar position, so hopefully this helps. Hooray!

Merry Christmas. And I mean Christmas. I’m not saying happy holidays. I don’t believe in that PC bullshit.