Neopronouns tend to refer to pronouns that fall outside the more common terms that people use in a language. For example, instead of using “she,” “him,” or “they,” someone might prefer to use “ze,” “xe,” or “fae.”
Pronouns are words people use in everyday language to refer to themselves and others when not using their names. They can be an important way for a person to express their gender identity and navigate the world around them as their most authentic self.
While some people may find neopronouns difficult to understand, it is important to respect an individual’s pronoun choices. According to a 2020 study, transgender and nonbinary youth whose pronouns were respected by most people had half the suicide rate of those whose pronouns were not.
This article will explore what neopronouns are, why they are important, and how a person may ask what pronouns someone uses.
In English, the most common gender pronouns are:
- she, her, hers, herself
- he, him, his, himself
- they, them, their, themselves
Neopronouns refer to a group of pronouns that fall outside these more common pronouns. Examples include:
- xe, xir, xirs
- fae, faer, faers
The Trevor Project estimates that roughly 4% of LGBTQ youth use neopronouns such as ze/zir, xe/xim, and fae/faer.
Some people may think of pronouns as a way of expressing one’s gender in terms of masculinity and femininity. However, neopronouns may express a person’s identity in a way that is less tied to these concepts. It may instead involve objects or ideas that an individual feels a strong connection to.
Pronouns can reflect a person’s identity. Some pronouns are more common than others, but many different pronouns exist that a person may identify with.
Neopronouns may be unfamiliar to some. However, in language, they work just like other pronouns.
For example, a person could refer to someone who uses he/him/his pronouns in a sentence by saying:
“I’m seeing him soon after he is back from his holiday.”
A person would refer to someone who uses xe/xir/xirs pronouns in the same sentence by saying:
“I’m seeing xir soon after xe is back from xirs holiday.”
Some people use multiple sets of pronouns. This may best reflect their identity, or they may feel safe using certain pronouns around only certain people.
If a person is not sure what to call someone, the individual can ask them if they have a preference for which pronouns to use and when.
Some people may like a person to refer to them with one set of pronouns more than other ones or feel most comfortable with a person using them interchangeably.
An example of this can look like:
“Chloe forgot her bag. Can you go give it to xem?”
Some people do not use pronouns at all. In this case, use their name in place of when a person would otherwise use a pronoun.
When using pronouns in everyday conversations, people may not always realize the importance and effect these words may have on others. But for some, such as those who identify as transgender, pronouns are incredibly important for signaling to the world who they really are.
As mentioned earlier, a survey in 2020 found that transgender and nonbinary youth who had their pronouns respected by most or all people in their lives had a suicide rate that was half the rate of those whose pronouns were not respected.
Researchers also conducted a 2019 survey exploring the effects that peoples’ actions and attitudes toward respecting a person’s gender — such as using a person’s pronouns correctly — had on transgender participants.
It is important to note that while much of the research into the use of pronouns focuses on transgender participants, not all people who use neopronouns identify as transgender. Using their pronouns correctly is still an act of respect and validation.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
There are several ways a person can ask what pronouns someone uses or send the message that it is safe for them to share their pronouns.
One example is by introducing one’s own pronouns first.
For example: “My name is Alex, and my pronouns are xe, xem, and xyr.”
This can open the door for the other person to feel safe sharing their pronouns.
A person may ask more directly with phrases such as: “What pronouns do you use?” or “What pronouns would you like me to refer to you by?”
If a person has concerns about how to pronounce someone’s pronouns, it is best to ask the individual themselves how they would like them to say and use the pronouns.
Other steps, such as adding pronouns to an email signature, can help make the sharing of pronouns more natural for everyone.
While asking about someone’s pronouns can create a feeling of safety and acceptance in a space, it is important to remember that some people may not wish to share their pronouns.
The table below lists some more examples of neopronouns, including examples of nounself pronouns. These are pronouns that connect a person to an idea or object.
|Instead of she/he/they…||Instead of her/him/them…||Instead of hers/his/theirs…||Instead of herself/himself/themself…|
The following are answers to frequently asked questions about neopronouns.
What should a person do if they get someone’s pronouns wrong?
If someone uses the wrong pronouns for an individual, becoming upset and bringing a lot of attention to their mistake may make the other person uncomfortable. They can simply apologize and correct themselves, gently encourage others to use the correct pronouns, and work toward getting it right in the future.
Can anyone use neopronouns?
Yes, any person can use any set of pronouns, regardless of their appearance and gender identity.
Can someone’s pronouns change?
A person’s identity is not always set in stone, and neither are their pronouns. Discovering one’s identity can be a process where someone may use multiple pronouns over time to see what feels right for them.
Pronouns are part of everyday language and can help a person express their most authentic self to others.
Neopronouns describe pronouns that fall outside the most common pronouns, often having fewer ties to gender.
Through communicating with someone about their pronouns and practicing their use, a person can help validate their sense of identity and make them feel safe and seen.