(Or, Why They Doesn’t Work For Me)
Right, so, I’m non-binary. Or, more accurately, I’m bigender – one gender being women and the other being a non-binary gender that I haven’t exactly found a good name for yet. I’ve used aporagender as the label for that gender in the past, but I’m not sure how well that fits now. And that’s okay! These things change as we find better terms to describe the weirdness that is gender.
Names for genders and pronouns are sort of meant to put your personal feeling about your gender into a word that can convey this to other people. That’s what words are meant for, obviously, but for something as complex as ‘the feeling of your own gender’ it can be expected you may need more than a couple of words for that. So I’m going to focus on pronouns, because they’re typically how you refer to a person, and also the first and most common point people get misgendered.
First off, I’m going to categorize pronouns into two separate categories for the sake of this post. The first category is in-language pronouns. I know it’s unwieldy, but basically in-language pronouns are pronouns that you already use in whatever language(s) you speak. So, in English, she/they/he. In German, die/das/der, etc. In-language pronouns tend to be -slightly- easier for people to not fuck up, because you already use those as pronouns, so any fuckups tend not to be at the linguistic level but at the fundamental ‘perception of gender’ level.
The second category is the neopronouns. Neopronouns, as the name implies, are new pronouns made typically by other trans and nonbinary folks to use. These tend to be the easiest for people to fuck up – heck, I use a neopronoun and I still fuck up. It’s not a fuck up due to the fact I’m deliberately misgendering that person or seeing them as not the gender they have told me they are, but rather that neopronouns are functionally new additions to the language. As shown by many recent and not so recent terms (pupper being used in place of puppy, or the term ‘adulting’ – where one attempts to be an adult), language is constantly evolving and new terms are added into our vocabulary frequently – but, it can sometimes be hard to pick up. This is especially true for older people, as it’s been found that languages or new changes to terms tends to take longer to learn for them.
Neopronouns will often employ some fun linguistic piggy-backs to make that process easier, or at least make it less likely to be misgendered. For example, I use ze/zhe/zer as my pronouns – if you replaced the z with either h or sh, you would get an in-language pronoun (ze to he, or ze to she). The change in just the first letter can make it easier to adjust, and easier for the language parts of our brain to pick it up as a pronoun, since the ending is the same. Obviously, not all neopronouns are like this, but it was a neat little thing to point out the cool linguistic stuff around it. ANYWAY.
I debated for a time which family to chose from. My only real option from the in-language pronouns would be they, which I have some negative biases towards. Everyone in my life that I’ve known to use they tended to be androgynous transmasculine people, typically skinny, typically white, and I don’t really fit this well at all. They makes me sad, because it could have been a good pronoun for me, if not for the assumption of the masculine neutral. I know a lot of other people don’t feel this way, and I am very glad they works for them. It’s easy to adopt, as we’ve been using they as a gender neutral third pronoun for quite a bit now. I just cannot, personally, escape the masculine connotations of they, and also the real worry of how people would react when they expect the ‘they’ I’ve seen my whole life – and, instead, are confronted with a fat femme grumpy orc from hell.
So, I turned to neopronouns. There’s a huge heckin’ bunch to chose from, so I definitely was not without choice. It boiled down to a few major things for me – that my gender was accurately conveyed in the pronoun, that the risk of being misgendered with it would be as small as I could feasibly make it, and also that is sounded good or ‘cool’. For those reasons, I picked ze/zer – I felt like they conveyed me being bigender fairly well (the z sound is sooooorta similar to the sh sound), and ran a low risk of getting misgendered while also making it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I AM NONBINARY.
This is a key thing, here. So you know how I mentioned the masculine they? As a nonbinary femme person, I’m often misgendered as just a woman, because there is a prevalent and unspoken myth that nonbinary people must be masculine. I don’t get dysphoria from being misgendered as she/her (which I think may be partially because I am bigender), but I do experience gender euphoria from the correct pronouns being used. This is why I chose new pronouns in the first place – I wanted people to acknowledge that I’m nonbinary, that I’m NOT cis, and that that’s okay and I should be able to feel good about that. And the way I feel good about that is through being gendered properly.
Currently, I’m not pursuing a lot of other aspects of transition (and that’s a whole other blog post, or, ‘wtf do you transition to if you’re nonbinary???’), so changing pronouns is one of the few avenues I can take to assert my gender. I also want to make it very clear that this is my own personal experience with ‘pronoun shopping’ – not everyone has the same biases as I do, and every trans/nonbinary/agender person experiences their own gender (or lack thereof) differently. Some people don’t wanna change their pronouns, some people want to make their own, and that’s all a-okay and fantastic! Do what makes YOU feel comfortable, and there’s really not a wrong way to do gender and pronouns, so go wild!
(image credit above: tumblr user proudnb)