Break The Binary: An Easy Guide To Non-Binary & Neo-Pronouns

Break The Binary: An Easy Guide To Non-Binary & Neo-Pronouns
Voices of Gen Z

American cartoonist Maia Kobabe in their book Gender Queer (2020) had profoundly said, “Some people are born in the mountains, while others are born by the sea. Some people are happy to live in the place they were born, while others must make a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.”

What we take away from this is that in a population of 7 billion and more, homogeneity is impossible, and to be perfectly honest, it must not be expected either.

Individuals with gender identities beyond the binary are subject to oppression based on beliefs that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are the only acceptable identities. To many, especially Indians, this seems foreign, and hence garners vast hate, intolerance, and essentially what is a lack of effort to understand.

21-year-old Gayatri Kalyani Kashyap generously lent us their thoughts to help us understand this better. From how we frame our language to what ‘acceptance’ can really mean, their insights will help us navigate through this.

“Personally, I find it hard to be a torchbearer of discourse while navigating language and the inevitable dysphoria of not passing. I find it hard to often correct people or fully mention my pronouns first. A part of it comes from some internalised shame? Or discomfort? A larger part comes from a sense of aloofness because I believe I’m beyond the system, but I also understand that not everybody thinks this way, so l succumb to what it is you think of me. If that means I get to save my breath and some intellectual energy. I’m mostly a concept choosing to express my gender through passable obvious features, like my hair and my style. I am to look as gay as possible which just means as close to myself that I can achieve through makeup or body modifications. I believe I dress enby [non binary]/ gay enough for people to guess my gender identity is fluid.”

— Gayatri

A person’s pronouns offer a space of solace, and a means through which they can cement their identity not just for themselves, but also by way of wanting to be addressed appropriately. Using these pronouns is undoubtedly essential for the well-being of a genderqueer or transgender person, or anyone whose gender identity does not fit into the widely accepted binary. The power of the use of appropriate language is immense, and using apt pronouns is part of their journey to a respectful and fulfilling life.

“Language helps us make sense of everything. When language finds a way to be inclusive we automatically are able to ascertain our identity to words and thereby achieve higher self esteem. It’s been hard to navigate words in Hindi, to find a balance in a non-binarised way. Sometimes people think that means a “neutral centre” but sometimes adhering to non-binary norms involves effortlessly switching between the binarised forms, since most languages currently do not offer a distinct netural centre.”

— Gayatri

Neopronouns, as the name suggests, are new pronouns. But, what exactly are they? Perhaps, looking at a few different interpretations might help.

The New York Times explains, “A neopronoun can be a word created to serve as a pronoun without expressing gender.”

Bustle tells us, “Neopronouns express a similar idea as they/them, but are intentionally created to make pronouns that feel like home.”

When asked the question, “What are neopronouns and why should I use them?” on Quora, a user named Sky Pie answered, “Neopronouns are created just as any other pronouns are: to make people feel comfortable in their own skin. To say that someone’s pronouns aren’t valid is to tell someone that their identity is wrong, and that isn’t something we should be telling these people because it simply isn’t true.”

These interpretations help us understand a basic factor - neopronouns are addressal words used to disrupt the idea of the gender binary, gender roles, and gender assumptions. They are pronouns without gender.

Bustle provides us with a few commonly used neopronouns:

  • xe/xem/xyrs
  • ey/em/eirs
  • ze/zir/zirs
  • fae/faer/faers
  • per/per/pers
  • e/em/ems
  • ze/hir/hirs
  • hir/hir/hirs
  • ve/vir/vis
  • ne/nem/nir

“Adapting to non-binary pronouns [and neopronouns] invariable broadens space increasing the chance and feeling of acceptance towards those who resonate with such identities. In order to be more inclusive and conscious, one should remain cognisant of the subtle changes in language and social norms that are emerging as a consequence of greater social awareness.”

— Gayatri

People across the world have taken non-binary pronouns and neopronouns as a comical matter, and unfortunately, these people are plenty. For those not familiar with the foundation and concept of neopronouns, it is easily confusing to understand what is said in a demeaning manner with intentions to be humorous, and what in fact, is truly representing one’s identity.

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