“They” Series: Family

When trying to figure out ideas for nonbinary topics, I realized that I’ve talked about the nonbinary pronoun ‘they’ but there are also differences to contexts in which people saying the pronoun might learn to use it. There’s family, friends, kids, ect.

So this blog series is going to be for those people in a nonbinary person’s life that are struggling or starting to say ‘they’ and what they can do to help themselves, and their nonbinary person.

The Context: 

You are this person’s mom, their dad, their parent, their sister, their brother, or their sibling. Their aunt, uncle, cousins, or grandparents, and everyone else twice removed. You want to support your ‘niephew’, child, cousin, or sibling and that is so great! And a step in the right direction.

But ‘They’ seems complicated, and when you were in first grade, your teacher said to rarely use ‘They’ for an individual person unless you don’t know their gender. Well, that works perfectly in this case! And is becoming widely used as time goes on.

The Work:

Your nonbinary person has come out to you. You may not understand them, but you want to support them. So here’s the work. Read these to yourself and try to understand how singular ‘They’ works in sentences and conversation.

“They are amazing just the way they are.”

“Pass them their drink.”

They are turning 25, they’re so old!”

“When are they going to be home?”

I love them.” 

“Their cat is meowing up a storm.”

“There they are!”

The phrases will sound awkward at first, but the more that you practice, just like anything else, the better you will be, and soon it will simply roll off the tongue!

Making Mistakes:

It’s going to happen. First, accept that. Even if you believe you are perfect at learning everything that has to do with grammar, you will mess this up, and your nonbinary person knows this. Trust me they have prepared themselves specifically for it.

In that situation, a nonbinary person will brush it off, say it was okay, and that you’re trying and they knew it would happen. They will be okay.

What will make them feel worse, is the constant over apologizing people tend to do when they mess up. It brings attention to you and your shortfall, and makes them feel guilty for telling you to use ‘They’, and then both parties feel awkward and tense.

So my advice for when you slip up and misgender is to catch yourself, correct yourself, and move on. This normalizes the use of ‘They’ in conversation and keeps both of you from getting into that awkward moment.

Indirect Conversation:

Family members tend to talk about those they love to lots of people, and once your nonbinary person comes out, they may want you to stop calling them ‘daughter’, ‘son’, ‘sister’, ‘brother’, or any other specified gendered term for a relative.

In this case, it’s best to just ask them what they’d like to be called, to their face and when in reference with others. They will appreciate knowing that you aren’t going around still calling them your “_____”.

And in conversation with others, and the person you’re speaking with misgenders your nonbinary person, maybe take them aside later and explain the pronouns to the person.

However, talk about this with your nonbinary person too, as they might have preferences on who they want to know that they’re nonbinary in the first place.

 

Overall, the goal of this series is to normalize singular ‘They’ in our society and show everyone that it isn’t so ‘weird’ or ‘odd’ to refer to a nonbinary person as who they are.

Featured Image: Broadly-Vice Gender Spectrum

Caption: “Two nonbinary friends playing video games”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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