Summoning LGBT+ help about inclusive grammar.


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Hello. I'm an English teacher from Mexico who has vague ideas about the newer, modern use of gender pronouns. I have the Monster Prom game and you can choose He, She or They. But beyond that, do you use "are" or "is" for the "to be" verb? Any other advice? I want to include modern language in my classes. Thanks in advance!


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In written and spoken English in the US in 2019, you use "they are" even when the antecedent of 'they' is singular.

My friend doesn't use gendered pronouns, because they are not interested in binary sexuality.


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CrystalSeas is correct; "They are/they're" is the generally-accepted singular gender-neutral term these days.

However, I wouldn't generalize to "written and spoken English in the US in 2019" solely because I produce written content for a tech company, and the editing department currently refuses to accept "they're", and insists on the antiquated he/she.

So my advice: Go with what CrystalSeas said, because it is the sensible approach. Just be aware that you will occasionally receive pushback, especially from entrenched publication companies that don't like the fact that language changes over time.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

One good resource to quote is the journalist's style manual, Associated Press Stylebook which has, since 1917, officially endorsed that usage.

Associate Press Stylebook wrote:

They, them, their In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze…

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.


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I don't know if I should be teaching that at all LOL! But I want my students to know, whatever their opinion about the LGBT+. A lot of my coworkers are G or L, and a couple of my students too, so I want to be inclusive.

I'm also asking because Spanish is a gendered language, with most words having a gender, and there is a tendency towards changing that. It is a royal pain, really. But that is another topic entirely.


English is (loosely speaking) derived from German, and German has three genders: Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter, which are applied at random like paint spatters across the board. I speak French and German, and if Spanish is anything like French, your genders are nothing like the appalling mess that is German. I won't bore you with excessive examples, but English was "cleaned up" by generalizing all unknown individuals to "he" (singular) or "they" plural. Needless to say, eventually using "he" as a supposedly gender-neutral term in a male-dominated society did not go over well.

"They" is an excellent alternative, which, as CrystalSeas points out, has been used for over a century in the U.S.

I think my approach would be to say, "In the past, the U.S. used to use the gender-specific 'he' to refer to people of unknown gender. In modern times, the use of 'they' is preferred in almost all situations."
And that would only be if someone asked you about it.

In terms of being respectful, every transgender I've met is perfectly happy to tell you which pronoun they would prefer (and notice the singular 'they' there).


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
NobodysHome wrote:
In terms of being respectful, every transgender I've met is perfectly happy to tell you which pronoun they would prefer (and notice the singular 'they' there).

The 'singular they' construction is not about being transgendered. In fact, many transgendered people have a strong sexual identity and use he/she pronouns.

The singular-they construction is used for nonbinary people, ie people who do not identify with a single gender. These people may, or may not experience a disconnect between their body's sexual characteristics and their gender identity.

For transgendered people, it is often the difference between their gender identity and their body's sexual presentation that moves them to gender-reassignment surgery

Transgendered people can identify as binary or nonbinary, just as cisgendered people can.


CrystalSeas wrote:
NobodysHome wrote:
In terms of being respectful, every transgender I've met is perfectly happy to tell you which pronoun they would prefer (and notice the singular 'they' there).
The 'singular they' construction is not about being transgendered. In fact, many transgendered people have a strong sexual identity and use he/she pronouns.

Sorry; hadn't meant to imply that. I'd just noticed that I'd happened to use a singular they in casual conversation and wanted to point it out.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yes, I added to my post to point out that both transgendered and cisgendered people can identify as either binary or nonbinary. They are different aspects of sexuality.

And the nonbinary folks are the ones who are most likely to use nongendered pronouns.


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"They are" is the generally accepted usage (they has actually been used to some degreee for a while as a way to refer to an individual you don't know, e.g "when a customer calls you, they may wish to speak to your manager") (which is honestly a lot less clunky than the alternating he/she some texts have used, and a lot less gender biased than referring to hypothetical people as she or he).

English is a language that is incredibly inconsistent with its conventions anyway, so they being followed by "are" instead of the "is" that the other two common options isn't really that big an aberration where English is concerned (this is a language where almost every rule has at least one weird exception after all).

Edit: on another language note, "transgender people" usually comes across a bit better than referring to trans people as "transgenders" - transgender is usually more of an adjective than a noun (I am a trans woman, or in other words, a woman who is transgender, not a "transgender") though your mileage may vary.


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Short version: "They is" just isn't right.

Accurate version: Agreement with CrystalSeas, NobodysHome, and Tender Tendrils.


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The problem with Spanish is simple: the plural for mixed crowds defaults to male pronouns. If there were 49 women and 1 man, the plural used would be "ellos" (they, but male).

And there are words that don't have a female form and default to the male form, some of them about professions.


the xiao wrote:

The problem with Spanish is simple: the plural for mixed crowds defaults to male pronouns. If there were 49 women and 1 man, the plural used would be "ellos" (they, but male).

And there are words that don't have a female form and default to the male form, some of them about professions.

You could imagine the drama.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

"They" is a good pronoun to use for an unknown person of unknown gender. For example, if I am having a problem in my home and call for a plumber or electrician, I don't know for sure whether a man or woman (or multiple people) will be coming, so "they" would be the most appropriate word to use until they actually arrive and make the best pronoun usage obvious.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've got nothing additional to add to the topic, as several others have discussed how the "they/them" pronoun should conjugate for a non-binary individual. I just wanted to thank you for attempting to be as inclusive as possible for your students. I'm sure they will appreciate it.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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CrystalSeas wrote:
One good resource to quote is the journalist's style manual, Associated Press Stylebook which has, since 1917, officially endorsed that usage.

The other preeminent style guide, the Chicago Manual of Style, recommended against using they as a substitute for the generic he until just two years ago.

In September 2017, they released their 17th Edition, in which they relaxed their attitude on this in speech and informal writing, though they do still recommend avoiding it in formal writing. (And even that recommendation doesn't apply to "a specific, known person who does not identify with a gender-specific pronoun such as he or she... a person’s stated preference for a specific pronoun should be respected even in formal writing.")

(Paizo's house style uses Chicago as a foundation; this change is why Pathfinder First Edition alternated between he and she and Second Edition uses they.)


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For the record, "1917" in my post is a typo.
The AP Styleguide changed in 2017.

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