Are there really “nonbinary pronouns”?

This International Nonbinary People’s Day, let’s talk about nonbinary identities and pronouns.

What is “nonbinary”? Nonbinary is an umbrella term, a gender identity, or a way to describe gender that is outside of the male-female gender binary. There is no single way to look, act, or feel nonbinary.

One way to respect nonbinary people is to not assume their gender based off appearance. That includes pronouns and gendered language like “miss” or “boyfriend.” If you don’t know how to best refer to someone, it’s best to ask rather than assume.

Pronouns are part of a person’s gender expression. You may have heard they/them pronouns described as “nonbinary pronouns,” but nonbinary people can use any pronouns. While some nonbinary people use they/them pronouns, many nonbinary people use other pronouns, such as he/him, she/her, they/them, he/they, she/they, ze/hir, xe/xem, no pronouns at all, or pronouns not listed here.

One way we show that we care about one another is to respect each other’s pronouns and gender expression.

Misgendering is when you project your perception of gender onto other people. Misgendering can occur when you use the incorrect pronoun for someone or use incorrect gendered language to refer to them. If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, don’t try and guess. The simplest way is to tell someone your own pronouns and ask for theirs. That way everyone’s pronouns can be respected.

At Howard Brown Health, we work to make sure our communities are affirmed in their identity and healthcare. If you want to learn more about our gender affirming services, learn more about our transgender and nonbinary health services or call 773.388.1600.

Last year on this day we interviewed some of our staff that identify as nonbinary to hear their perspective on what nonbinary means to them, what they would like others to know, and what it’s like to serve a population that shares their identity. Read about what it’s like to be nonbinary here.


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