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Stories

A Primer on Pronouns

Brought to you by Generation Q & TREE (Trans Rights, Education and Empowerment), a confidential educational and social/support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth and straight allies. Learn more about Generation Q & TREE at the Community Action Groups & Programs webpage.

What is a pronoun?

  • A pronoun is a word used to replace a name in a sentence.

Examples of pronouns

  • She/Her/Hers
  • He/Him/His
  • They/Them/Theirs
  • Ze/Zir/Zirs
  • Ze/Hir/Hirs
  • Ey/Em/Eir/Eirs/Emself
  • Xe/Xem/Xym/Xyrs
  • Ne/Nem/Nir/Nirs/Nemself

A few helpful terms

  • Gender binary: A socially constructed system consisting of only two genders (man and woman), each of which have a distinct set of characteristics, roles, and expectations that those individuals are anticipated to fulfill.
  • Gender neutral: A broad term used to define identities that do not fall within the binary system. Some identities that may fall under this category may include: gender queer, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, bi-gender, and two-spirit.

Using binary gender pronouns in a sentence

  • He discovered his identity and that made him happy.
  • She discovered her identity and that made her happy.

Using non-binary gender pronouns in a sentence

  • They discovered their identity and that made them happy.
  • Ze discovered zir identity and that made zir happy.

Expanding pronouns a bit further: person-first pronouns

  • Person-first pronouns: When one uses one’s preferred name in place of a pronoun.
  • Example: Avery discovered Avery’s identity and that made Avery happy.

A note about using they/them/theirs pronouns

  • Often times when folks learn that they/them/theirs can be used as a singular pronoun, the person will cry out “But those are plural pronouns! That’s breaking the rules of grammar. It cannot be done! That’s so hard for me to do.” We encourage you to challenge yourself and learn that this is an identity and therefore an important part of who someone is. Part of respecting someone is using their preferred pronouns. Try it!

Never make assumptions

  • Never assume one’s preferred pronouns. If you're unsure, ask!