Using “They” instead of “Him or Her”
Notice to all copy editors:
I’ve officially converted. The grammar Nazi in me finally conceded that using “they” as a personal pronoun is no longer incorrect, inadvisable, or to be ignored as simply another trend toward political correctness. For a long time, I held that we needed to find a new pronoun to indicate an individual of either sex. “They” didn’t work for me because it was just not grammatically correct, being a plural pronoun. But my inner proof reader has reconsidered and changed their mind. At last.
I have too many friends who are perfectly described by “they," as they don’t identify with just one stationary notch on the gender continuum. As a plural pronoun “they” recognizes the fluidity of gender in all of us. I find that concept alone to be more inclusive than the binary yes/no kind of thinking that requires either “he” or “she” with no alternatives.
More and more in my life and work, I seek inclusivity over exclusion, oneness over division. Plus, if the writer had chosen to use “they” instead of “she” in a recent overview of our local Entrada politics, my friend Dr. Khristaan Villela wouldn’t have been misidentified as a woman. I’m sure he probably doesn’t care either way, but the copy editor in me does. Using “they” for “he” wouldn’t have been incorrect, and it would have meant no mistakes were made.
Back in the mid- to late- 20th century, it used to be that style-wise, if we weren’t sure of a person’s gender (and this is long before Google, my little lambs), it was considered appropriate to assume they were a “he,” because we wouldn’t want to insult a man by implying that he was a “she” now, would we? Somehow, way back when, it didn’t matter if a woman was referred to as a man; in fact, she was supposed to be flattered. The very idea that someone might be both male and female was not a possibility.
Well, it is now. It’s real, it’s here, and it’s not going away.