Frequently asked questions

What is nonbinary?

Gender is way more complicated than just a simple distinction male/female. Even from a purely biological standpoint we distinguish chromosomal sex, genetic sex, hormonal sex, phenotypic sex… They aren't necessarily congruent with each other, they don't have to be binary. (more info here). And when we get to the cultural aspect, “gender” is a social construct. Depending on time and location being “a woman” or “a man” can mean having radically different rights, duties, norms… In Europe men used to wear high heels and stockings native peoples of North America have been recognising a third gender for centuries (two-spirit), etc. etc.

Nonbinary is an umbrella term describing the identity of people who don't fit the binary man/woman distinction. It includes for instance people who are agender, gender fluid, demigirls, demiboys, and many many others.

Nonbinary isn't necessarily something “between” masculinity and femininity. More like “beyond”. Nonbinary people don't have to be androgynous, don't have to use neutral pronouns, etc. It's about being free from gender roles, not about creating new ones.

Why should I respect some strange pronouns?

Because addressing people in the way they want to be addressed is the basis of social relations. You wouldn't call Ashley “Samantha”, you wouldn't drop “sir”/“madam” when addressing your supervisor, etc. And there's people who don't want to be called either “he” or “she”. If you don't accept that, it only shows you in bad light.

“Strange pronouns” are just a matter of getting used to.

How do I know how to address someone?

You can just ask! Yes, it might be a bit awkward, but the more we do it, the less awkward it gets. If we can ask somebody their name, why not their pronouns?

(Just please don't phrase it as “are you a boy or a girl?”. This question implies that there's just two correct answers, and it suggests unhealthy curiosity about someone's genitals. Instead, you could just ask “what are your pronouns?” or “how should I refer to you?”)

It's also important to normalise simply telling people your pronouns when you introduce yourself. “Hi, I'm Michæl, he/him”. It's not hard – but for trans and nonbinary people it means so much! It's even easier done online: just put your pronouns (or a link to examples from our website) to your bio.

Remember also that many people might use a different name and a different set of pronouns depending on situation. They might not be out among friends or coworkers yet, but among friends be comfortable living their truth. Be mindful. You might for instance ask them “which pronouns should I use in front of your boss?”, etc.

Some people give multiple pronouns, eg. “he/she” or “they/he”. That means they like all of those forms. Usually, the first one is the preferred one.

Does anyone even use that?

Yes! Millions of enbies all around the world. Every pronoun listed here has someone that actually uses it in everyday life.

Are those nonbinary pronouns approved by some kind of authority?

Language is not some kind of god-given, ancient magic set in stone. It's just a tool that we use to communicate. When we change as a society, and when the world around us changes, we adjust the language we use to be able to better describe it. We're its users, so we're the authority on how we want to use it.

Dictionaries take their time to start including those changes, which doesn't make the change illegitimate in any way. But eventually the new forms, if used often enough, get included in dictionaries. Merriam Webster, for example, accepts the use of singular “they” as a nonbinary pronoun.

You can also read some academic papers on neopronouns.

Why should I put my pronouns in bio on social media?

If you're cis (= not trans) and you use “he” or “she” matching your gender, you might think that your pronouns are obvious. And yeah, maybe that's true – as long as your name is mentioned in the profile (and is traditionally male of female) or if you have your picture as avatar. Many people don't – so it's hard to guess how they want to be called.

But it's mostly about something more than that: your pronouns might be “obvious”, but there are people whose pronouns are not. They want to be addressed correctly, whether or not they “pass” as their gender, whether or not they have transitioned (or if they want to transition at all). Nonbinary people usually “don't look nonbinary”, we don't owe anyone androgyny.

Sharing our pronouns is very important for trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people. Alas, it also exposes and singles us out. But if cis people do the same, it means the world for us. It makes us feel more comfortable, safe and welcome (more reasons here).

Can I change my pronouns?

Of course! Nobody is surprised when someone changes their views, style, hobbies… So why would it be strange that they discovered a part of their identity, stopped liking their name, discovered a label that fits them well, etc.?

Is it strange that I can't get used to my own new pronouns?

Not at all! After many years of using pronouns congruent with one's gender assigned at birth it's easy to forget oneself when switching to different ones.

Pronouns ≠ gender. Your gender won't drastically change just because you got confused once when someone called you “them”. Don't worry. Experiment. See what fits you best.

Why shouldn't I say “preferred pronouns”?

Because this phrase suggests that someone's pronouns are just a whim. If someone just “prefers” to be called she, he won't _really_ feel bad, if I call him a “he”, right? They look like a guy, after all, so it's gonna be easier for me!

No! It's our pronouns. Not our “preferred pronouns”. It's our names, not our “preferred names”. If you care about your trans and nonbinary friends and loved ones, then call them the right way.

Why shouldn't I say “gender pronouns”?

Because gender ≠ pronouns. Pronouns are just grammar. Nonbinary folks can use binary pronouns, some lesbians use he/him for cultural reasons, etc.

Simply say “pronouns”.

Can you add this flag? Can you remove that flag?

No.

Maintaining the list of flags and labels is an increasingly time-consuming task for our team. It's also challenging in terms of filtering out trolls and vandals from valid, good-faith identities. We don't want to be identity police. And we don't want to spend all our time on managing flags either. It's a project about language and pronouns, after all, not about flags. They're just a bonus.

We did our best to select a list of flags that are the most popular and, to our best knowledge, generally accepted. We are not planning to extend or shrink that list.

We are aware that a few flags might not be liked by some (eg. because of a history of TERFs trying to take over a term and make it transphobic, because of multiple confusing definitions, or even because of aspects of a life of a mythical character). We are queer and trans ourselves, we care about our trans siblings. Unfortunately, it's really hard to make such decisions when we get messages both from trans people asking to add a flag they honestly identify with, and also from other trans people asking to remove it because it somehow hurts trans people. It's not like history of every label is clear or like there's an authoritative source to look it up. And even if queerphobes try to make some terms hurtful, we believe in the community's power to reclaim hateful terms.

If you don't like a flag, just don't use it. If your flag is missing, just upload it (it will be marked as user-generated to mitigate vandalism).

My pronouns aren't listed

There's a generator on the homepage, you can use it to create a link to any pronoun set you like.

You can also just list the five forms using slashes, eg. ze/zem/zir/zirs/zirself

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