Embracing They, Them, Their


The events at Pulse nightclub in Orlando a few weeks ago have left us all reeling. Teen Line has always been an ally of the LGBTQ community and even has a specific LGBTQ outreach presentation. Countless teens have come out to us over the years because we have been, and always will be, a safe and nonjudgmental space.

It’s easy to feel powerless with all the hatred going on in the world.   What we can do, as always, is start in our homes. Educate ourselves so that we can teach acceptance to our children. I use “acceptance” rather than “tolerance,” because to me, “tolerance” means we are just dealing with something, rather than embracing it.

New terms are continuously evolving in the LGBTQ community; in fact, many use LGBTQIA (to include intersex and ally or asexual), or LGBTQ+.  I was proud this week to be on a video podcast with one of our former Teen Line listeners who beautifully explained what “gender queer” means for them, as well as their preferred pronouns.

Preferred gender pronouns (PGP) are new territory for many, and as such, can be confusing. We live in a binary world, where male and female are the “traditional” genders. However, many don’t feel that they fit into the binary, and may identify as “gender queer,” “gender fluid,” or “gender neutral.” As a result, instead of using traditional “he/she” pronouns, a person may identify as “they” or “ze.”

Some struggle with the “they” pronoun because it seems grammatically incorrect to refer to a singular person as “they.” However, as I was recently reminded/educated, we do use “they/them/their” as a singular all the time without realizing it.  For example “everyone is expected to be at their desk by 9 am.”

When we allow our own confusion or discomfort to stand in the way of how we address someone, we are disrespecting that person and their identity.  We are not creating or modeling a culture of acceptance.  The chart below from Trans-LISTEN-Mission (https://www.facebook.com/translistenmission/) beautifully sums this up:


If you don’t know how to address someone, you can always ask.  People are generally willing to explain their preference and be patient with your mistakes if you show you are interested and willing to change.  I encourage you to check out our LGBTQ video (https://youtu.be/oIDKLt0cj-c).  And remember,  just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s “wrong.”

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  1. Elaine says:

    Terrific blog.

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