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They, them, their — why some people use these pronouns instead of he or she


Photo by Devin Kira Murphy licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

rainbow arcrainbow arcDo you know anyone who wants to be called they instead of she or he?

Do you know why?

It may be because they identify as non-binary. But what does that mean?

They, them, their and he, she — what’s the difference?


They, them, he and she are personal pronouns. We use pronouns in everyday language. It helps us talk about ourselves, other people and things.

Sometimes pronouns, like she and her, are specific to girls, and other pronouns like he and his are specific to boys.

So what happens if someone doesn’t feel like a girl or a boy? Then they might use a gender-neutral pronoun like they, their or them.

Gender — what does it all mean?


Have you heard of the words binary and non-binary? These words have to do with gender.

The idea that there are only two genders is called the gender binary and used by people who feel they are either a male or a female. They use the pronouns “he” and “she.”

People who don't feel that they fit into one of these two groups are non-binary.

Being non-binary allows them to pick the identity that feels right for them. And they may use several pronouns including “they/them.”

Want more stories like this? Read how to support your LGBTQ friends and family

How many gender identities are there?


Gender is not just about boys and girls. It's a rainbow of all kinds of identities.

Non-binary people feel they don’t fit perfectly into the boy or girl box. They can feel like both a boy and a girl at the same time, or even something else all together.

Gender identity is formed by the feelings a person has inside, not what they wear, how they speak or how they act on the outside.

Are there other words that can be used?

Yes, there are other terms for non-binary. These words include: non-gendered, gender-creative, genderless, genderqueer, bigender and agender.

Be sure to check out why pink triangles are special

What happens if you meet a new friend and you don’t know what pronoun to use?

Just ask them. If you meet someone and you’re unsure of their gender, just say something like: “what pronouns do you use?”

It’s hurtful to assume or ignore someone’s pronouns and/or identity. We all want to be seen and accepted as who we are.