What Do You Mean They Go By They/ Them Pronouns?


“Many people don’t understand what I mean when I tell them that I am nonbinary and prefer to be referred to with they/ them pronouns. They often respond with “isn’t they plural” in which I do my best to explain I don’t identify as male or female so “they” feels more comfortable and fitting.”- Nonbinary Green Level High School student

After reading “19 people describe the moment they knew they were non-binary” by Emma Glass-man Hughes, I learned that people who identify as non-binary had- in most cases- been previously unsure of where they fit and uncomfortable with the strict definitions of gender. By dictionary definition, nonbinary is described as “noting or relating to a gender identity that does not fit into the binary male/female division.” However, according to the LGBTQ foundation, many people who identify as nonbinary describe this term as “an umbrella term, or a range of language and labels used within non-binary communities. Non-binary people may identify as both male and female or neither male nor female. They may feel their gender is fluid, can change and fluctuate, or perhaps they permanently don’t identify with one particular gender.” 

Oftentimes, we are quick to assume someone’s gender, sexuality, pronouns, etc based on their appearance. We apply these assumptions when we address someone, unconsciously forgetting that appearance does not necessarily determine a person’s identity or preferences. 

I have a lot of respect for the LGBTQ+ community but don’t always know how to show my support or ensure respect when addressing someone with they/ them pronouns. When I asked a nonbinary peer how they educate or advocate for themselves they responded: “I try to be considerate of the fact that many people are just simply unsure of how to use my pronouns. I will always tell people my pronouns when I meet them and politely correct them as they learn. I’ve learned that most of the time, people will try their best to be respectful of your pronouns; it’s just a very new concept for them. Part of the issue is that we don’t learn a lot about gender diversity. Most people don’t understand that gender and sex are not the same thing.”

Here at Green Level, students are free to express themselves and explore gender as they please. Our gender equality club holds meetings on Thursdays (B week) where they create a safe environment for anyone to hang out, talk, and advocate for gender equality inside and outside of school. When I asked a board member Amelia Moore what the GEC is currently doing for nonbinary and LGBTQ+ students at our school she said: “the gender equality and leadership club is such an important part of our school. For a lot of students, it’s a relief to be around people who accept them and respect them no matter what they identify as, whether that be non-binary, trans, etc. We also sometimes work with the LGBTQ club where we make posters to hang around the school and organize events such as service projects and workshops.”

We must do our best to support and respect those of all genders and all pronouns just as we would anyone else. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to help, you can visit any of the sites below or attend the LGBTQ club and gender equality leadership club during connectivity.