Pronouns: He/him, she/her, they/them

Addressing someone how they want to be addressed

From the National Institutes of Health – Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

At my church – well, remotely – my buddy with a great first name recently gave a presentation for our adult education class. One of the aspects of his talk was the use of pronouns, and the possibility of us posting them on our social media.

Months earlier, my pastors started using she/her and he/him, respectively on Facebook and in email. I hadn’t really followed the issue in the broader society. Sometime thereafter, my daughter asked if I had added he/him to my Facebook; I had not, but it was based on inertia. Eventually, I had changed it on FB, but it took actually writing this for me to do the same on Twitter, mostly because I don’t often go onto that site.

Bottom Line has a good article about this topic. “Typically, society has taught us to make automatic assumptions about what pronouns to use for someone… However, gender is not always that simple. Sometimes a person’s gender identity (the way the person identifies internally in terms of their gender) doesn’t align with their gender expression (the way they look). In addition, not everyone identifies strictly as male or female. So when a person includes their gender pronouns on their email signature line (or on a nametag, when introducing themselves, etc.), they are simply taking the guesswork away for you!”

The “they” question

In other words, they’re doing YOU a favor, people! I note this because I’ve seen so much grumbling about it in certain circles, based on the change in language, their perception of biology, whatever.

This is important: “If someone feels the need to state their pronouns, does it mean they are transgender and/or gender non-conforming?

“Not at all. Everyone has a gender identity, and most of us have specific pronouns we’d like people to use when we are being referred to… Most of us are privileged in that when someone guesses our pronouns, they’ll get them right. However, that’s not the case for everyone.”

Another article I found, from 2019, is Welcome, singular “they”. “The singular ‘they’ is a generic third-person pronoun used in English… Although the term singular ‘they’ may be unfamiliar, you’ve probably heard and used the singular ‘they’ in conversation throughout your life. Here is an example: ‘A person should enjoy their vacation.'”

I’ve come to not just accept but to actually embrace “they” in these and other contexts. There was a song by Sting back in the 1980s called If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, which was ahead of the curve. Although I understand Chaucer and Billy Shakes also used the singular “they”, most of us pedantic types were taught that it was “wrong.” But language changes, our understanding of our world evolves, and I’m good with that.


I agreed with these pronoun usages. But I must admit that a bit of it is probably the same reason most people agree with new ideas. It makes sense and it isn’t all that much of a heavy lift.

I’m reminded of the adoption of the term Ms. in referring to women half a century ago. I was thinking back in 1972, “Hey, why SHOULD women be labeled by their marital status? Men aren’t!” And Ms. had the S that was included in Miss and Mrs., so it was easy to remember.


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