Graphic by Sydney Huang
“They,” as a singular pronoun, has finally been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in their newest update. In the usage guide of the word, the dictionary gave historical and literary examples of when “they” had been used as “pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number,” such as in works by William Shakespeare, W.M. Thackeray and G.B. Shaw.
The pronoun is used by a number of people who identify outside of the traditional she/her/hers and he/him/his pronouns. The inclusion of the pronoun is a monumental point for the LGBTQ+ community because it validates the identity of those who adopt it.
Amongst those individuals is Ian Edwards, a queer individual who uses they/them/their pronouns and believes that using they/them pronouns has both personal and political motivations.
“I have known since I was young that fitting into a category of ‘male, boy etc.’ has felt like an uphill battle,” Edwards said. “I have a fluid experience with my sexuality, but the reason I use they/them pronouns is precisely because I feel like I have masculine and feminine energies within me and I want to treat those parts of me with the respect that they were never afforded in my youth.”
The conventional use of he/him/his pronouns often comes with restrictive societal expectations on how a person of that identity should behave and Edwards simply didn’t feel that way. By utilising they/them pronouns, Edwards felt empowered; there was finally an identity that allowed them to be as fluid as they wanted to be.
“I use these pronouns as much as possible so that I can give a tangible representation of the power of the possible, to expand the realm of what humans can be,” Edwards said. They elaborated on the importance of pronouns and validating one’s queerness, as it creates a new community for people to not feel “alone or abhorrent in any way.” This is very comforting to know, especially in a society where the threat of violence against non-cisgender individuals is a prevalent.
“It is about safety,” Edwards continued, “When I correct people on using they/them pronouns, it’s because I want to fight for that world of safety that I never got, at least on a very micro-level (…) Not all people who use they/them pronouns identify as queer nor do they necessarily experience femme or masc energies like I do.”
Edwards said that it is important to realise that the fluidity of the term gives it its power. It doesn’t restrict those who identify with it by any social norm or tradition; it allows people to be who they truly want to be.
Alana Tse is a second year literary journalism student major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org