It was a big year for the word “They”.
Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, noted a growing recognition of the use of ‘they’ for those whose identities don’t conform to the binary of ‘he’ and ‘she’.”
As Merriam-Webster puts it, “they” has been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary.
The American Psychological Association’s blog officially recommended that singular “they” be preferred in professional writing over “he or she” when the reference is to a person whose gender is unknown or to a person who prefers “they”.
And if you’re not quite sure what nonbinary means (like me), here is an explanation from Wikipedia:
Non-binary, or genderqueer, is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. Non-binary identities can fall under the transgender umbrella, since many non-binary people identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex but does not necessarily, as some intersex people are also non-binary. Non-binary people may identify as having two or more genders (being bigender or trigender); having no gender (agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois); moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); being third gender or other-gendered (a category that includes those who do not place a name to their gender).
Words matter, and if words like “they” and “nonbinary” are the proper words to be used to show respect and inclusion, then I need to be aware of such words, and make sure I am using them appropriately.
*image from Good Morning America