Being Proactive about Pronouns

Op/Ed by Archie Bongiovanni

“Is that a joke?” asks a middle-aged man incredulously, pointing to a sign attached to the cash register that reads, Please use gender neutral pronouns when addressing our staff. Thanks for being a pal.

It’s Sunday morning at 9am. I’ve been here since 6am. I have had three cups of cold coffee.

I’ve had this conversation for four years now—with supportive friends, confused family, and belligerent strangers. It has not gotten easier and it’s the main reasons for writing a comic book on the topic.

When I came out as genderqueer I wasn’t sure how to ask to use gender neutral pronouns, or what to say when they got it wrong. Tristan and I knew each other for years before this and so we learned how to navigate gender neutral pronouns at the same time. We originally made a zine about our experience and that zine grew into this comic. We provide examples, scripts, and reassurance to both non-binary folks as well as cisgender people learning to use they/them pronouns.

Often folks are confused about how to change their language to include non-binary pronouns, or scared to even attempt it in case they get it wrong. We created something non-academic and non-confrontational (as well as entertaining) to read. For people with no understanding of gender neutral pronouns, this book is a great place to start. And for those of us who use gender neutral pronouns it’s a great alternative to a 9am conversation that you’re too tired to have.

A Quick & Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson was published by Simon & Schuster in 2018.