(November 1, 2017)
Across most of history and across many (but not all) societies, gender has been assumed to be binary: that is, people fall into one of two mutually exclusive categories -- male and female. Gender has also been equated with sex: male bodies contain male brains and female bodies contain female brains. And in most cases, this is true: such people are called cisgender. But as we've explored on OutCasting, there are people whose gender identity is female though their bodies are male and vice versa, and those people are called transgender.
But nature is rarely if ever purely binary, and so it is with gender. There are people whose gender self-identification is neither male nor female, whose identities combine elements of both, and some of these people's gender self-identification is "non-binary." OutCasting youth participant Jamie is one of them.
The pronouns people use to refer to themselves — and prefer others to use about them — are closely tied to gender identity. Males generally use the pronouns he, him, and his, and females usually use she, her, and hers. So important are these pronouns that people may take offense if the wrong pronouns: a female might object to people referring to her as "him," while a male could be offended if someone called him "her."
This pronoun usage is of equal importance to both transgender and non-binary people, in whom gender identity might not be what meets the eye. As detailed in a BBC article, there have been attempts to popularize new words such as zie, zim, and zirs, but some non-binary people prefer to use the singular version of they, them, and theirs. The Washington Post reported that the singular "they" was named the Word of the Year by lingusts at the American Dialect Society's annual meeting in January 2016.
Jamie uses they/them pronouns. In this fascinating conversation, Jamie talks with fellow OutCaster Alex about their (Jamie's) coming to understand their gender identity, their confused feelings about being a boy at an early age, their later questioning of their sexuality (Jamie identifies as pansexual), their family's acceptance, and more.