A Guide to My Pronouns and Such
If you’re reading my blog, you probably already know I go by either he/him or they/them pronouns. This post is an attempt to compile answers to some questions people have asked me about my gender and/or pronouns (plus a few things that no one has actually asked, but that I imagine someone might wonder).
Disclaimer 1: This is about me, Emma Manning, expressing my own preferences. Please do not assume anything in this applies to any other trans/nonbinary people you know; we’re all different! If you’re looking for more general information about pronouns, I highly recommend Kirby Conrod’s series of blog posts, particularly:
- pronouns 101: introduction to your loved one’s new pronouns
- pronouns 102: how to stop messing up pronouns
- intermediate pronoun studies: multiple pronouns - This post is part of what inspired me to add an additional set of pronouns!
Disclaimer 2: My relationship to gender and gendered language have been slowly evolving for the past several years, and I’m under no illusion that that’s suddenly going to stop happening the moment I publish this blog post. If there are major changes in the future I may update this post, but generally speaking, if you later see me saying something that contradicts what I write in this post, assume the more recent info takes precedence.
Q: So which pronouns should I use for you? Do you like one more than the other?
Short answer: You can use either they/them or he/him. Really, either is fine! I’m not gonna be upset that you used one over the other because they’re both fine. There isn’t one that’s better overall.
Q: How much should I vary the pronouns I use for you? Should I alternate?
If you’re pretty new to the concept of being intentional about what pronouns you use for someone and the idea of trying to use multiple ones for me is daunting, I’m fine with you just choosing either one of these and sticking to it (whatever will make it easiest for you to not ‘she’ me, basically; that is NOT allowed).
On the other hand, If you do feel like you have the Advanced Pronoun Skills necessary to mix it up, please do!
It’s nice to hear both, so for example, if you notice that most people in whatever space we’re in together are referring to me as ‘they’, I would particularly enjoy if you used ‘he’ for variety, or vice versa. Similarly, if you notice that you’ve been only using one pronoun for me recently, maybe try throwing the other one in!
That said, you don’t need to like, count your usages or make sure to alternate or anything. You definitely don’t need to try to fit both into a single sentence or utterance; those tend to sound unnecessarily awkward to me.
Q: Is it ever ok to use pronouns other than ‘he’ and ‘they’ for you?
It is not ok to use she/her pronouns for me, ever! Please avoid this at all costs! Yes, even if you’re talking about something from the past when I still used those. Yes, even if I’m not there to correct you.
I am ok with being referred to by gender-neutral neopronouns, though I don’t have a lot of experience with these being used to refer to me. I’m not requesting these the way I’m requesting ‘he’ and ‘they’, but if you’re a huge neopronoun fan or just want an opportunity to practice, you’re welcome to try using them for me. Tentatively, my favorite sets for myself are ey/em or xe/xem.
Q: Is it ‘themself’ or ‘themselves’?
I like ‘themself’ better for a reflexive of singular ‘they’; for example, you might say:
“Emma cuts their hair all by themself!”
English has a similar alternation of using ‘yourself’ for singular ‘you’ and ‘yourselves’ for plural ‘you’, so why not?
That said, this is a weak preference; I won’t be upset if you ‘themselves’ me.
Q: What should I do if I accidentally misgender you?
If you slip up and use an incorrect pronoun for me, the best possible situation is that you notice immediately when you say the word. In this case, you can just correct it and keep going. Something like:
“Emma told me that she- they recently defended their dissertation!”
“I’m glad Emma wrote this blog post about how to use her- sorry, how to use his pronouns!”
Sometimes people don’t notice they’ve messed up until after they’ve finished their sentence (and possibly been corrected by me or someone else). In this case, just shouting out the correct pronoun out of context is not enough; you should say the sentence or phrase again with the corrected pronouns. This makes sure your brain is getting some feedback on how to do this right in context, and shows me that you have at least some baseline amount of interest in trying to get this right. This might look something like:
You: I think Emma’s the impostor because I saw her running away from the room where the body was found!
Someone else: Emma goes by ‘he’ or ‘they’
You: Oops! I think Emma’s the impostor because I saw him running away from where the body was found!
In any case, please don’t over-apologize; a quick ‘sorry’ as you correct yourself is fine (but less important to me than the correction itself). Don’t pull me aside or email me afterward to apologize again and/or tell me that you really are trying. Instead, show me that you’re trying: spend that energy practicing so you can avoid messing up more in future!
Q: What should I do if I hear/see someone else misgendering you?
The specific way these interactions will go is pretty context-dependent, but in general I do appreciate if you correct the person, whether or not I’m also present. You can also make a point of using the right pronouns for me in your own speech to help model the correct usage, but sometimes that isn’t enough to get the message across on its own, so a more direct correction is still helpful.
Q: What about other gender-y words, like nouns and adjectives?
When in doubt, avoid calling me by any typically gendered terms, though especially in a queer context I sometimes enjoy masculine-coded ones. You can ask me how I feel about a specific word in a specific context if it’s relevant!
You can definitely refer to me as ‘nonbinary’, or by any gender-neutral terms; for example, instead of calling me a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’, you can just call me a ‘person’!
You may have previously seen me refer to myself as a ‘lesbian’; while nonbinary people can be lesbians, I’m not currently using that term for myself now that my gender has drifted further away from womanhood. I still call myself ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ and you’re welcome to call me those things too.
Q: What if I’m talking about you in a language other than English?
Languages differ a lot in the ways they express gender! If the language you’re using marks gender grammatically (whether with pronouns or something else like noun and/or verb and/or adjective inflections), please avoid using feminine-coded forms for me. Similar to English, masculine-coded or neutral forms are fine; if you have access to both, using both is great, but if you don’t know of gender-neutral forms in that language it’s ok to stick to masculine. (Of course, if the language doesn’t typically mark gender, just use the normal neutral form.)
Q: Can I include you on lists of ‘women in X’ or in groups meant for women?
I’m not a woman, so no. If, for example, you put me on a twitter list of ‘women in NLP’ or whatever, I will probably block you to remove myself from that list.
Q: What if it’s a list or group for women and nonbinary people?
So. I am a nonbinary person, but I find that the category ‘women and nonbinary people’ is sometimes used to mean essentially ‘women and people that we perceive as women even though they don’t want to be called that’ or ‘people who were assigned female at birth’ and I’m not a fan of that! As a rule of thumb: does your group/list also include nonbinary people who were assigned male at birth and/or are often perceived as male? If not, it’s not truly nonbinary inclusive, and I’d rather not be a part of it!
Q: Are you going to change your name?
I don’t currently plan to change my name, particularly in any official capacity, because:
- Name changes are hard
- Even though the name ‘Emma’ is traditionally seen as a woman’s name, it’s never felt excessively feminine to me; it’s just my name!
That said, I do sometimes feel the desire to be a Cool Nonbinary Person With a Noun Name, and so I’ve introduced ‘Ember’ as a more gender-neutral nickname that some of my friends use for me. If you’re my friend (broadly construed), you’re welcome but not obligated to use it too!
Q: What if I have more questions?
If you have questions not addressed here about how to refer to me etc., please contact me via whatever platform you normally use to communicate with me (if in doubt, the home page of this website has some options). I’ll do my best to answer and maybe add it to this post!