How times change: What ‘they’ used to mean

Anonymous asked:

Hello, I am having an issue with the pronoun “they” that may have been discussed previously, and if so please excuse the repetition. As an “out” lesbian for over 30 years, I worked hard to use pronouns that conveyed the gender of my life partner. This was not always easy and it was tempting to say, “My partner camps. They go to Bass Lake often.” It was a mini-coming out experience every time I said, “My partner, she..” Now, the “they” pronoun is a coming-out. How times change, yes?

Hello there Anonymous.

Yes indeed, how times change!

You raise a series of important points and offer a valuable historical perspective. My partner is a historian of sexuality and we had a really interesting conversation about your post.

I’m sure many people have used ‘they’ in order to hide a same-sex partner for safety and comfort reasons, and now here we are: advocating they as a visibility, safety and comfort strategy. My goodness!

For me this is another indication of how deeply fluid and contingent our norms are around gender and sexuality, which I find beautiful but others find challenging (and for good reason as gender/sexuality offer key sites of stability for many of not most people).

So, thanks for writing, and I appreciate you taking the time!