Pronoun Etiquette Guide


I wrote about how to write Trans Characters in a prior post here. A common follow-up question involves pronouns, such as a guide on how to use them, who uses which pronouns, and how to pronounce the gender-neutral ones.

In this guide, I will have links to other trans individuals to provide a more nuanced perspective, especially as pronouns can be a diverse subject. I also will record snippets of myself pronouncing the pronouns to assist with pronunciation. Since I have some high-quality microphones, I might as well use them, right? The goal of this guide is to help guide folks on more nuanced conversations about pronouns and how we address one another, and to help people who are writing trans characters within their respective mediums.

Pronoun Etiquette

Everyone has pronouns. Most folks may not realize that they do, as they are so used to the pronouns used for them that it feel second-nature.

Pronouns aren’t set in stone. There are lots of different types of pronouns, and what one person may use as pronouns may be very different from what another person uses. That’s okay!  There’s no set-rule that all folks of this identity must use x pronoun. Use the pronoun that is best for you.

Why are pronouns important? We use them in everyday language all the time, and pronouns, due to our culture’s fixation on gender, relate to our gender identities. Thus, using the correct pronoun for someone affirms their gender. Using the wrong pronoun misgenders them and potentially puts them in danger (especially if they are not out). Our society is not trans-inclusive, but is fairly hostile to trans people still. More about this topic can be explored here and here and here.

What else is important to keep in mind?

  • Offer your own pronouns when you introduce yourself.
  • Always ask a person’s pronouns rather than assuming based on their gender presentation (as in how they look).
  • How to ask: “What pronouns do you use?” or “What pronouns should I use when talking about you? I like to make sure I ask rather than assuming based on how they look.”
  • Ask, privately, how the trans person would like to be identified in specific situations.
  • Do not deadname a trans individual, even if talking about their past before they came out.
  • Always use their chosen name.
  • Always use their correct pronouns.

Let’s review some of the more commonly used pronouns. (If you want to see an extensive list, here is someone who is trying to find and capture all the possible pronouns that have been used or have been suggested for use here. Content Note for link: otherkin are also in the list.)

How to Use Pronouns

To use the guide, let’s first discuss important grammar rules. Pronouns exist in several different forms depending on where they are located within a sentence. (Related resource: University of of Wisconsin (Milwaukee campus) has a good introduction to this. The Purdue Online Writing Lab also has a good discussion of grammar and pronouns.)

A pronoun can act as a subject, an object, a possessive determiner (or possessive), or reflexive. This may seem confusing, so let’s tackle each one by one.

  • Subject is what controls the verb, as in the person or entity or item that does the action, and often comes at the start of a sentence.
  • Object is the entity or person or item that is acted upon by the subject. This may come in the middle or end of a sentence.

For example: They visited the Rocky Mountain National Park. “They” would be the subject of this sentence. “Visited” would be the verb, and “Rocky Mountain National Park” is the object.

  • Possessive determiner is a word that is placed in front of a noun to attribute possession of that noun by some entity or person.

For example, Her handbag was brown. “Her” is the possessive determiner that attributes the handbag to the person with she/her pronouns.

  • Possessive pronouns appear at the end of a sentence or after the verb that is in agreement with the subject. In this case, the pronoun is spelled different based on the verb-subject agreement.

For example, The brown handbag is hers.

  • Reflexive pronouns refer to the person or entity who is the subject of the verb and is also the same person or entity who receives the action.

For example, I drove myself to the store. “I” is the subject that realizes the action of driving, while”myself,’ who receives the action, is the same person as “I.”

Commonly Used Pronouns

Below is a list of the most commonly used pronouns in each of the different forms:

Commonly Used Pronoun Guide.jpg

(Note: For those who may be angry about singular they, I would invite you to read the history on its usage and the argument as to why it is valid here.)

Sample sentences:

  • Ne drove ner car to the store to buy nerself some fruit.
  • Ve danced with vis partner in the moonlight.
  • Ze decided to open an etsy shop to sell the figurines ze made. Zir figurines were made of clay.
  • Kir friend worked hard to remember kir pronouns when referring to kir.
  • Xyr friend remembered xyr pronouns when referring to xem.

Now that we have a solid handling on how to use pronouns, what about pronouncing them? There’s a lot of variation within gender-neutral pronouns, and that can seem daunting. I’ve reached out to several different trans communities to try to find some overlap in pronunciation, and that overlap is what I will share below.

Caution: this isn’t the only way to pronounce these pronouns. I am only providing a starting point.

Pronunciation Guide

The pronunciation of gender neutral pronouns can be personal to the trans person. However, there are some general pronunciations that tend to be fairly common within the community. I will cover those here. It is often best to check with the trans person to verify how they pronounce their pronouns. I will use a mixture of the usual “IPA” pronunciation commonly seen in dictionaries as well as sample words that have the equivalent sound.

Below is a few that most folks have asked for a pronunciation guide. I also hope to do a recording for these as well, so people can hear them in a sample sentence. However, I wanted to make sure I pushed this out instead of pending too long while I clean up the recordings. I will update this post with recordings once I finish them.

  • e/ey
    • IPA: “heɪ
    • e/ey as in “hey”
  • fae
    • IPA: fə or feɪ
    • Two commonly used pronunciations:
      • fae as in “faerie”
      • fae as in “fade”
  • hy/hym
    • IPA: “eɪ” or “i”
    • Two commonly used pronunciations:
      • hy as in “hey”
      • hy as in “he.”
  • kie
    • IPA: i
    • “kie” as in “key”
  • mer
    • IPA: mər
    • “mer” as in “mermaid”
  • per
    • IPA: pər or pɛr
    • Two commonly used pronunciations:
      • per as in “persuade”
      • per as in “pear”
  • ne/nee
    • IPA: ni
    • ne as in “knee”
  • ve/vi
    • IPA:  veɪ or vi
    • Two commonly used pronunciations:
      • vae as in “ate”
      • vi where the ‘e’ is pronounced as the ‘ey’ in key.
  • xie
      • IPA:  ʑeɪ or zi
      • Two commonly used pronunciations:
        • “jeɪ” as in “jade”
        • “zee” as in “zebra”
  • ze
    • IPA: zeɪ or zi
    • Two commonly used pronunciations:
      • the “e” pronounced like the ei in eight.
      • the “e” pronounced like the e in zebra.

More Resources

 

Categories: Blogging, transgender, WritingTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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