What are Pronouns?
At this point, pronouns have been mentioned once or twice before, and you might be sitting there asking yourself "what the heck even are these??"
Pronouns are defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a word (such as I, he, she, you, it, we, or they ) that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase".
Why are We talking About Grammar?
Very good question. Pronouns are more than just about grammar, they are about identity. Boys use "he/him" pronouns, and girls use "she/her" pronouns. What, then, do the non-binary folks use?
Many NB folks have begun using "they/them" pronouns. This has caused controversy, because it is argued that they/them pronouns are not grammatically correct in the singular form. This is not true- check out this article here.
What about those people that don't feel like they/them pronouns fit who they are? Well, they use other pronouns of course.
You're probably asking yourself "Other pronouns? What other pronouns?" If this is the case, you are in the right place!
There are many other gender neutral pronouns out there. As mentioned previously, there are ze/zir, ey/em, and many others. As a writer, you will need to consider a variety of factors for your character when working out what pronouns they will be using. This website gives a decent breakdown of some of the different pronouns.
This list here is a short list of pronouns that you might use with your character.
This website has a handy explanation of why you might want to use gender neutral pronouns, and how to go about using them.
Why Bother With Gender Neutral Pronouns?
Gender neutral pronouns allow someone to feel in tune with who they are as a person. If you are a boy, wouldn't you feel unhappy and as if no one really cares about you if everyone called you a girl and referred to you as "she"? You might say "no, that wouldn't bother me", but that is not true. Having the rest of the world not acknowledge who you are as a human being is not a feeling anyone loves to experience.
The most important thing about pronouns is, if you do not understand them, to use them anyway. Struggle through a foreign pronoun. If your character is cis and is dealing with a non-cis friend, they will definitely struggle to use the correct pronouns. This is a great talking point between these two characters, and is completely realistic.
Write a short story using a set of pronouns you have never seen before. Use the prompt "Elliot sat on the floor, flipping through the collection of books on the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf."
Extension: discuss what was different for you about writing this way. Was it hard? Easy? Why did you write with this particular set of pronouns?