Call me them

What happened to the whole idea that it’s a mistake to spend too much time thinking about yourself instead of everything else there is to think about? That idea does exist, doesn’t it? I didn’t imagine it?

Normally we think people who go on and on and on about themselves are boring, yes, but worse than that, they’re…well, the obvious: they’re self-obsessed. It’s bad to be self-obsessed. We used to know that, didn’t we? What happened to that?

Behold: from Science Mag: Why I came out as nonbinary to my Ph.D. lab

Who cares?

The illustration nails it:

Yes, every bit as smug as that.

But maybe the content is better than the title would lead you to expect?


My hands shook as I sat down to write the email. “I wanted to let y’all know that I use they/them/theirs pronouns,” I typed. “I know that gender-neutral/non-binary pronouns are not a common staple in our language, but I ask that you please do your best to respect them.” Proclaiming my identity—one I had still not quite figured out yet—to a group of co-workers made me feel incredibly vulnerable. But I knew that if I wanted to survive graduate school, I needed to be open with my labmates, no matter how scared I was. After a few anxious moments, I clicked “send.”

“Their” hands shook as “they” sat down to tell “their” colleagues to go to the trouble of remembering that “they” must be spoken of in a tiresomely non-intuitive way that will take extra effort and attention to remember to use.

“They” should have just cut to the chase and said “Dear co-workers I ask that you please pay much more attention to me than you do to everyone else, because I alone am Special.”

And what does telling co-workers to waste their attention on remembering to refer to Someone Special by Special Pronouns have to do with surviving graduate school?

Never mind all that, the point is paying extra attention to Them.

During the months leading up to graduate school, I had been exploring the idea of using gender-neutral pronouns. I didn’t know whether they’d suit me; I just knew the words “she” and “woman” didn’t feel quite right when they were used to describe me.

Pronouns aren’t supposed to “suit” people, they’re not shoes or a haircut, they’re just a shortcut in talking about other people without saying their names every time, that’s all.

There’s a lot more fragile self-absorbed drivel after that; I can’t face reading all of it. What will these people be like in 20 years?

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