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We currently exist in a time of macro-evolution changes to our interpretation of gender and sex. The classical binary system of the Christian based Western cultures (and others) is being challenged and we are now identifying and given representations to those that present themselves as exceptions to this former 'rule'.

Personally, I am in total support of different gender pronouns that allow for a more complete categorical representation of the gender spectrum. Now, one that has caused a lot of confusion on my part is the use of 'They/Them/Their' as a singular pronoun. The classical use (based on the binary interpretation) is that it's use is collective (i.e. plural) or a state of unknown. So, when I refer to a group of males, females, or males & females I will use 'they/them/their'. If I'm speaking to a generic human where the gender is unknown I equally use 'they/them/their' as a gender neutral term. So, in my research online (and I've found there's significant variances within the community) it appears that those that choose 'they/them/their' use this as a singular pronoun as they are neither male nor female. This appears to be an extension of the current binary system to a tri-ary system. Instead of 'he/him/his' and 'she/her/hers' we have a third category 'them/them/their' and that is their gender identity. That's great. But in doing so, we've lost two elements (a) A collective gender term and (b) a gender neutral term.

Now, when I've raised this before I'm generally told that 'they/them/their' still remains as a collective and gender neutral term. This is where my confusion is created. If I don't know if a person is male, female, or 'they' - what neutral terminology do I use? and equally if I have a group of people (male, female, they) how do I refer to that group of people?

It seems that if we use it for both, we are saying that people that are 'they' don't know what they are AND don't know if they're a single person or a group?

I suppose one option is that we no longer have gender neutral or gender plural terms - but my goodness, how can that be a positive change for our system of language?

I'm desperately trying to find information on this topic, but I've found that when I present these questions on FB LGBT pages I'm viciously attacked. I reject the principle that I have to just respect whatever another decides. I will call a person whatever they want, but I equally (if not more) find the consistency of language to be critical - How else can we speak without ambiguity to one another?

So, if anyone knows of credible information on this topic and/or whether I've misinterpreted the situation, could you please clarify.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this seems like a language issue to me, and as you can see in our help center, this site isn't here to tell you what to say. – Tinkeringbell Sep 28 at 8:25
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  • “She” is a singular pronoun that has a gender associated with it.
  • “He” is a singular pronoun that has a gender associated with it.
  • “They” is a singular pronoun that does not have a gender associated with it.

If someone’s gender doesn’t match the gender associated with either of these first two pronouns, a gender-neutral pronoun like “they” is most appropriate. When someone tells you they prefer the pronoun “they”, this might be the case.

In all cases, the pronoun and the gender are related, but distinct, things. So:

It seems that if we use it for both, we are saying that people that are 'they' don't know what they are AND don't know if they're a single person or a group?

No. We’re using the gender-neutral third person singular pronoun to avoid associating an incorrect gender with someone via a pronoun. The same word is also a gender-neutral third person plural pronoun, but it’s not the meaning being used here.

How else can we speak without ambiguity to one another?

Context, and sometimes ambiguity still happens. That’s English for you. It has homonyms.


(specific answers to individual questions)

If I don't know if a person is male, female, or 'they' - what neutral terminology do I use? and equally if I have a group of people (male, female, they) how do I refer to that group of people?

they; they.

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