What pronoun do you use to identify yourself? He? She? They? Something altogether different?It’s a question asked increasingly often as acceptance of a spectrum of gender and sexual identities grows. Some languages, like Chinese and Persian, don’t assign nouns a gender or already have a gender-neutral form for people built in. But in languages whose grammar is traditionally based on exclusively male or female options, the answer to this question can still require an explanation. In 2019 the Merriam-Webster dictionary added “they” as the pronoun to use for a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” Two years prior, in 2017, “they” as a gender-neutral form was added to the Associated Press Stylebook, the gold standard of sorts for journalists. The Washington Post, meanwhile, made the style guide change in 2015. Critics of the change have argued that “they” as both singular and plural can be confusing and muddy a sentence’s syntax. Shakespeare and Jane Austen, among many other famed English writers, didn’t think so. They used singular “they” and “their,” as was the standard in English until Victorian-era grammarians shifted course and imposed “he” above all.
How do you talk about being queer or non-binary or gender nonconforming in grammatically gendered languages?