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I never realized how crucial awkwardness was to being a true LGBTQ+ ally. Recently, the pronoun they changed my mind. They has evolved beyond plural, into a singular pronoun for an individual with a non-binary gender identity. For some folks, they works well, while she or he doesn’t. But the word they, used in this way, seems to cause discomfort. I’ve heard many complaints and (in my admittedly limited experience) these are the most common.
The grammar is wrong.
Let’s weigh this issue on the scales of social justice. On one side, let’s place the weight of the traditional Rules of Grammar. On the other side, let’s place a language evolving to match a deeper understanding of the gender identity spectrum. C’mon — although life often presents us with close calls, this isn’t one of them.
I can’t get used to it.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who likes classic movies while you prefer sports events, and you get used to it? Have you ever been diagnosed with an allergy, and you can no longer eat your favorite foods, and you get used to it? How about having kids — that’s an average of an adjustment every 10 minutes, for 18 years, and you get used to it. And now you’re saying you can’t get used to a new definition of a pronoun. Really.
It’s not proper English.
Language is continuously evolving. Language — like life — is a dynamic process, not a static state of immobility. And yeah, that even applies to pronouns.
I agree, I feel awkward, and I’m still learning how to use they as a singular pronoun in a sentence. But this isn’t about my awkwardness. Actually, this isn’t about me at all. It’s about expanding language, stretching words to match a spectrum of gender identity that wasn’t fully articulated until now. Healthy growing and healthy stretching are often awkward, so maybe feeling awkward is a sign that we’re on a healthy track.
When I’m comfortable, it’s easy to be an ally. However, when I feel awkward, I’ve found that I can turn to the LGBTQ+ community for help. Without fail, 100% of the time, my LGBTQ+ friends have answered my questions with respect. They’ve supported my need to learn, never once disparaging the gaps in my knowledge. If I’ve said I’m uncomfortable but want to grow comfortable, they’ve reached out.
I’ve never formally studied linguistics, but They has shown me how a word can serve as a catalyst, expanding language to promote values of equality. They has also enriched my personal growth, adding another dimension to my definition of myself as an ally. Now, I think LGBTQ+ Ally Support includes a willingness to stand awkward. Feeling awkward no longer seems negative. Actually, I’m growing more comfortable every day, as I embrace my own awkwardness.
Thank you, They.