Why would someone use a gender-neutral pronoun?

There are many reasons why someone might use a pronoun other than she or he. The people who you expect might use a gender-neutral pronoun are not the only ones who do, and may be quite happy with he or she.

Most of the time, users make this choice because there is something about she or he which makes us uncomfortable. This often has a lot to do with gender, and many users have a gender identity or expression which differs from male/masculine OR female/feminine. Once again, however, this is not universal. Some make this choice for political reasons, or to make space for gender-neutral pronouns. However, the vast majority of people whose pronouns are gender-neutral are nonbinary, whether using that term or another one that is kind of like it. I go into this in depth in my book.

Using a gender-neutral pronoun like singular they can be a way to signal to others that a user does not want to be automatically grouped along with people who use she or he – usually women/girls/ladies or men/boys/gentlemen – for activities or invitations, etc. It can be a request that one’s preferences or habits or dis/likes or comfort not be assumed based on one’s (perceived) assigned sex. It can also be a way of making one’s felt gender apparent in everyday life by bringing it into immediate language.

So, using singular they is about comfort and communication. It can also be about many other things, and if you have a differing opinion or experience please share either in a comments section or on TIMP’s Tumblr.*

TIMP is now archived and no longer accepting comments, etc. on Tumblr.


  1. Hi, I just have two questions: 1) what was your gender before you became gender queer, and 2) what led you to believe that you did not classify as the gender you were labelled at birth?


    1. I used to identify as “she,her”, but using “they, them” has released myself and others’ expectations of how a person “should” act. I feel I am seen as more of a whole person if both male and female attributes are attributed to me. As most of my life I have liked “male” activities, it helps others to understand I am not one dimensional, but a complex person.


      1. People who believe that males and females should behave in a particular way, simply because they are male or female, are sexist. You are kind of reinforcing that idea.


      2. It’s so sad that you have failed to realise that feminism is there to help shape society such that being a woman or a man, shouldn’t come with the boxes you rigidly cling to. You are just at fault for saying what a woman can do/act/present as any misogynistic religion or culture. You drank the Kool-Aid and bought the T-shirt. You have willingly limited what a woman (or man) can be to a tiny sexist box and created a new set of boxes of ‘gender neutral’ by which to limit yourself to.

        Feminism is the only way we can make men, and now young ashamed women, see that being a woman or a man isn’t limiting or restrictive, either can do or achieve or do anything they want.

        Don’t think feminism is only for those disgusting TERF’s and Gender Critical conservative fascists. Feminism has been hijacked and in the younger generation all-together ignored.

        It’s tragic. Unless you’re intersex or transsexual and have the scientifically understood ‘gender dysphoria’, you are statistically most likely to be either a woman or a man and your true gender identity to be either a woman or a man. To invent something contrived, because of sexism is throwing every feminist who came before you under the bus. And limiting every honest woman (and man) you choose to segregate from.

        Be better, for everyone’s sake.


  2. Do you think that cis-gender people should announce their pronoun preference? Cisgender people announcing their pronouns on an Instagram page, for instance.


    1. What a great question! My friend Oliver and I just wrote something on this:

      View at Medium.com

      From: They Is My Pronoun Reply-To: Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at 1:30 PM To: Subject: [They Is My Pronoun] Comment: “Why would someone use a gender-neutral pronoun?”


      1. I am a cisgender woman who feels fine about she/her pronouns. I have found myself feeling uncomfortable in pronoun go-rounds, for some of the reasons discussed in the excellent essay linked above. I started to wonder if it would be appropriate for me to say that I would accept she/her or they/them as my pronouns, as a means of normalizing use of the singular they/them. I am of two minds (at least) on this idea. On the one hand, it might lessen the possible stigma of having just one person (or a minority of people) using they/them (or other non-she/he) pronouns. That is, they/them could theoretically be used for anyone. This thought is, I think, related to Manion’s argument about lumping people into cisgender/transgender boxes. BUT, I am also concerned that it might seem like I was performing transgender, or not taking it seriously. Also, someone might use “they” specifically to mean non-binary, which is not how I would be using it (more like “gender unspecified” or the difference between “Mrs” vs. “Miss” vs “Ms”). I would appreciate any insights, with my thanks. I have not found anything online that seems to address this issue, and my thoughts keep going round and round.


    2. Yes because sometimes people dress close to the other gender when they are not that gender. It’s just nice forclarifaction


    3. Yes because sometimes people dress close to the other gender when they are not that gender. It’s just nice forclarifaction


  3. Hi, I have a question.
    If someone isn’t comfortable with he or she, why is ‘it’ not used. Since the word – it – is singular and it wouldn’t change grammar or get confused with singular or plural.

    Thanks 🙂


    1. Hi there! Thanks for the question.

      People generally don’t use “it” because in English “it” denotes objects that are not alive. “It” has also been used to harm trans folks. “They” always refers to humans and has a long history in English grammar.

      Hope that helps,




      1. “It” makes much more sense for a single person. They/them are both plural words and should remain as such. Starting to use they/them in a singular form can get confusing rather quickly and is grammatically incorrect. If he/him or she/her is not preferred, then “it” should be used.


  4. As a cisgender person, I have never liked the fact that I had to designate a Miss, Ms or Mrs for my title. Miss does not seem appropriate at a certain age, Ms. to me harkens back to the days of divorcees and the women’s movement for equality, Mrs. states married. Today, for the first time, I had the title Mx. I absolutely love it. Is it appropriate for a cisgender person to adopt it?


    1. So I have a question about They/them as well. I am very ok with not using he,she, etc. I am also completely opposed to calling a person IT.

      They/Them has also been a plural in Grammer and I would like to know why I, Me, You along with your name are not better as those are gender neutral and singular.

      My question is about the grammer confusion and I truly want to understand They/Them.


      1. My child has just adopted “it” as one of their pronouns. They are gender-fluid and use they / it / those for their pronouns and have a separate name for each of their genders. Their workplace, which interfaces with the public at all times, even fashioned a separate name tag for each gender identify of our child, to use whichever one best suits their identity on any given day


    2. absolutely. you can do whatever you want with pronouns and labels and genders if it makes you feel comfortable. that’s the point 🙂


  5. I do not wish to be defined by any pronouns anymore than I want to be expected to know the pronouns that everyone wants to be defined by. At work, we are there to do a job, accomplish goals, make progress. That is what I want to focus on. How anyone wants to define themselves is irrelevant to getting the work done. If I have to think too long and hard about how to address a person I am working with it will take away from the focus of accomplishing the important tasks at hand. I could honestly care less how people address me if they do not know me. I am not the type to hold that against anyone. What is important to me is my work and working well together with everyone in my organization. I would be more bothered if someone’s preferred pronouns got in the way of accomplishing a critical task or goal.


    1. Perfectly said.
      Life doesn’t need to be as stressful and toxic as some people choose to make it.
      Feel free to refer to me as he, she, it, s*ithead, cracker, or whatever you want. Just don’t refer to me as they or them unless I gain multiple personalities.
      Or, just don’t talk about me behind my back at all.


  6. Surely there’s more room to let Men and Women be and wear what they want without having to create a new gender or lack there of?


All questions and comments are welcome. You can ask an anonymous question to TIMP at theyismypronoun.tumblr.com.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s