This has been written as a submission for the Gender Exploration Carnival’s May 2021 theme “Pronouns”.
As a semi-closeted person, I fluctuate all over the place when it comes to people asking about pronouns and indicating what’s safe to use for the situation. Sometimes I chafe at the assumption that I must use cis assumed pronouns, sometimes I panic and cannot check the they/them box on a form, and sometimes I feel unnecessarily secretive. While this makes sense on a certain level in offline spaces, it still pops up every once in a while online, like a hard to kick habit.
I’ve had they/their in different profiles and bios for several years now. As a multigender person, I like that they/their also carries an association of non-singularity in the sense that it feels like they/their can work for the totality of all the gender experiences that I could describe instead of only feeling applicable to a certain gender. As a genderfluid person who’s not always self-aware enough to change identifying info as the gender flows, it’s just easier to default to they/their regardless of whatever specific gender shenanigans are happening. I can set up my profile or bio and leave it.
This means that I haven’t really thought about the pronouns I share with others in a while because I haven’t made a new account somewhere recently. Until I got invited into a new Discord server, and there was that section in the bot channel where you can react with a certain emoji to get a pronoun role. I’ve encountered enough neopronoun users online that I doubt I’d have any issues with trying a set out, but somehow, this pronoun role message managed to trip me up. I didn’t really want to react for they/their, I absolutely did not want to react for a binary pronoun, and I didn’t quite know what to do.
Did I want to try out a new neopronoun set? What if someone looked at a non-Discord account linked during the event and used they/their for me? On the one hand, it felt so silly that I couldn’t bring myself to react with some plant emoji or whatever it was that represented they/their, and I was overthinking this. On the other hand, it unexpectedly felt like I was being asked to ‘Go around the circle and share your pronouns’ on the first day of class (assuming the class had a little over 100 people in it). The Discord server was for a fandom event, and I didn’t actually know anybody already, so it felt somewhat similar to interacting with offline strangers.
The secretive habit tried to kick in, and I didn’t react for any pronoun role. Unfortunately, it’s really awkward in some sentences to completely avoid pronouns, so I still wound up with an ‘I don’t know, so I’m using they/their’ usage at least once. Not to mention, so many others reacted to get pronouns in the first place that it looked strange to not have any. A fun little template thing that was supposed to be minor accidentally used cis assumed pronouns for me because I didn’t actually have new pronouns to replace the template one’s with. (Privately, I had a lot of inconvenient emotions, but I knew it wasn’t purposeful.) I wound up reacting to get the they/their role, and the template was updated.
(While I have felt happy with they/their being used for me offline in the past, and I still use they/their on several online accounts, the moment of reacting to get they/their in this server felt like I failed at some sort of experiment. I didn’t feel disappointed, but it’s more that I felt like I was trying to console those inconvenient emotions about the use of my cis assumed pronoun set. I have to live with those in so many other situations, but it unexpectedly hurt in this instance. I’m not sure I even made it two weeks before I settled for the they/their pronoun role.)
Pronoun roles seem to be, well, A Thing in Discord servers that I’ve popped into, so I know I’ll wind up facing this situation again at some point. I’m not sure if I’ll leave the pronoun roles alone again, or if I’ll react for something to start with. Some have ‘No pronouns’ as an option, but it’s not so much that I actively don’t like them being used for me. In theory, this should be a nice little trial for a neopronoun set I’ve flirted with wanting to try. Or I could react for more than one set or something. Occasionally, I just feel weird and resistant to sharing what pronouns I’d like someone to use for me, and I’d rather have an option for ‘Prefer to not disclose’.