Respecting neopronouns


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A newer form of neopronoun has emerged in the past few weeks, one that is a bit more out of the box for even the most supportive of people to get behind. Guest contributor Grace Myers gives her opinion on the discourse.

Grace Myers, Guest Contributor

If you’re someone who actively keeps up with the online world LGBTQ+ discourse, you’re likely to have heard the term “neopronouns” thrown around these past few months. Neopronouns is the term for new, unofficial pronouns certain people might choose to go by rather than conforming to the traditional gendered pronouns. The practicality and validity of using these types of pronouns is not a new topic of debate, but the amount of traction it gained recently on Tumblr and TikTok has made it a more relevant conversation among a new group of people.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a quick rundown.

Everyone, regardless of gender, uses pronouns, be it he/him, she/her, or otherwise. They’re a part of the English language and they’re used to refer to someone in third person without having to repeat their name. The issue many have faced with pronouns is that in most languages, pronouns used to address people are gendered and have either masculine or feminine forms. For those who don’t identify with a gender or who identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, this can be a slight inconvenience.

Those who don’t identify with any gender typically tend to prefer going by they/them pronouns rather than he/him or she/her. They/them pronouns are recognized by both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries as acceptable third-person singular pronouns.

“Someone dropped their wallet on the way to work today, so I turned it in at the front desk in hopes that they would find it,” is an example of these pronouns being used to refer to one person whose gender is not revealed or is unknown. Not only is it grammatically correct, it is respectful to the person you are speaking about.

This makes sense, but where do neopronouns come into play?

Some non-binary people feel that they/them pronouns do not fully represent their gender identity. One of the more traditional sets of neopronouns is xe/xem/xyr (pronounced zee-zem-zeer). These can be seen as more inclusive and representative of the gender a person wishes to express.

I see no problem with these pronouns. If they make someone feel more comfortable in their gender identity, I support it. It might take a little adjusting to get used to the new concept, but they function the same as they/them and make sense grammatically. Here’s an example of using xe/xem in a sentence.

“Have you seen xyr new haircut? Xe wear it well, it really suits xem!”

It’s a simple, non gender-specific way to refer to someone who feels comfortable with it. The existence of these pronouns isn’t hurting anyone. They make sense grammatically and can help improve clarity when referring to a non-binary person in literature, as well as make the person you’re referring to feel accepted and comfortable. There really is no downside to using and respecting these pronouns. 

This, however, isn’t all that has been debated recently.

A newer form of neopronoun has emerged in the past few weeks, one that is a bit more out of the box for even the most supportive of people to get behind. These are neopronouns that take ordinary words and turn them into pronouns. For example, a common one is bun/buns/bunself.

These have the same application as any of the pronouns previously discussed, they’re just a bit more abstract. While it is hard initially to understand why someone would want to go by these types of pronouns, I’ve found that the more I hear from those who do, the more I start to understand.

For some, gender is a hard idea to grasp, so hard to grasp that they feel a significant disconnect from the concept as a whole. They would instead prefer to go by something less conventional, and to that I say all power to you. Another important thing to note is that a majority of the people I’ve seen use these pronouns have been younger teeneagers, who are simply trying to figure themselves out and understand where they fit in. Once again, these pronouns aren’t hurting anyone. It’s not too hard to adjust to, and the benefits of respecting someone’s pronouns, no matter how absurd they may seem, outweigh the negatives any day.

At the end of the day my message is this: respect people’s pronouns. What do you have to lose? Your pride? Would it really insult you that much to call someone bunself rather than himself? If so, why does it affect you? If these questions can’t be logically answered, my advice is to suck it up and respect the wishes of other people. It won’t affect you for very long, but to the person whose pronouns you ignore, it could sting for a very long time.