They/Them: Understanding Non-Binary Pronouns


Did you know that around 0.5% of Americans identify as transgender or gender non-conforming? That is about 2 million people in the U.S. population that do not identify with the sex they were born as. 

People that do not associate with the male or female sex can fall into a wide range of gender identities on the gender identity spectrum. One of these identities is non-binary.

Non-binary people do not connect with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not identify with the gendered pronouns of she/her or he/him. To find out more about non-binary pronouns, continue reading.

What Are Pronouns?

Although we all learned about pronouns in English class, you may need a refresher. You actually use pronouns all the time! We use pronouns in place of a proper noun, like someone’s name. They are most often used when talking about someone without the use of their name.

For example, you might use a pronoun if you said, “Sally has taken all day to respond to my text. She must not have her phone around.”

What Does Non-Binary Mean?

The non-binary gender identity is just one of many terms to describe someone who does not identify with the genders of man or woman. Non-binary is more of an umbrella term that could refer to someone that is genderfluid, agender, genderqueer or something else entirely. 

Non-binary people fit into the broad category of transgender people; however, some non-binary people may not feel comfortable with this identity as transgender historically refers to the movement between binary genders (man to woman or vice versa).

What Are Non-Binary Pronouns?

People who are non-binary typically go for gender-neutral pronouns as referring to them as she/her or he/him could cause gender dysphoria (distress felt when their gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth).

Although there are a wide variety of gender-neutral pronouns, the most common are they/them/theirs. 

How Do You Use Non-Binary Pronouns?

Using non-binary pronouns could be difficult at first since most people are raised to use binary-based pronouns; however, it becomes easier with time. 

When talking about a non-binary person, you would say something along the lines of, “Their outfit is really nice.” or “They are such a kind person.”

One tip is if you have trouble remembering to use they/them/theirs pronouns, you can simply refer to them by the name they are comfortable with. 


What if I Make a Mistake?

Mistakes happen, and typically, a non-binary person will not be upset with you if you apologize, learn from your mistake, and move past it. Usually, someone can tell if you are making a genuine effort and will not get hung up on one instance of misgendering if they can tell you are trying your best.

The best way to confirm you are doing alright is to check in every once in a while and ask, “Hey, was what I said offensive?” Checking in like this shows them that you are making a conscious effort to gender them properly and make them feel comfortable. 

Choosing a Gender-Neutral Name

Whether you are a non-binary person looking to change your name into something more gender-neutral or you are a soon-to-be-parent looking for gender-neutral names, there are plenty to choose from. 

A nonbinary name can help with not applying labels or stereotypes to yourself or your child and allowing your child to embrace the gender identity they choose. 

Some gender-neutral names could include Taylor, Spencer, or Jordan, just to name a few. 

Using Pronouns for Comfort and Equality

The most important thing to remember when speaking to or about a non-binary person is to ensure that you are making them feel comfortable and equal to everyone else in the room. 

Always remember to use non-binary pronouns or gender-neutral terms and if you make a mistake, apologize and hold yourself accountable in the future. The best nonbinary pronouns if you are unsure are always they/them/theirs. 

While they may not use the same pronouns as you, you should always do your best to make them feel validated in their gender identity.