I have seen people say that “they” or “them” when it comes to an individual is grammatically incorrect, to which I say, “Well, let’s examine the context.”

One of the things that has annoyed me with some people, and that even extends to some old school nurses, is, you say, “I went to the doctor,” and the reply you get is, “And what did he say?” “I saw a lady doctor.” Implicit in both statements is that it is unusual for a woman to be a doctor and the majority of roles are held by males.

Having lived in a country where the first female Prime Minister delivered a speech that is ranked one of the best, where she called out the Opposition Leader (who shamefully was elected leader of the country, later on) where he said, in response to someone who said that women are not reaching the high levels, “Is that such a bad thing?”, I find outdated language irritating. If you respond to someone who says, “I went to the doctor,” with, “What did they say?” you are not implying that they went to more than one doctor, but you’re leaving the sex of the doctor open, and you are not implying that a doctor of the sex you would not suspect is out of place.

Which brings me to the case of people saying, “They,” and others getting their hackles up about it. I remember, in the 1980s, the talk around the place was that if a man had his right ear pierced that he was a homosexual. I remember someone close to me, when I mentioned that George Michael had both ears pierced, saying, “So, he can be either/or, he’s not sure.” I said, “No, he just has his ears pierced.”

They is typically used for people who identify as non-binary and then there’s the, “Oh, can’t be non-binary because you do this, or this,” well, that’s the point of being non-binary, binary means locked into one thing, whereas non-binary means not being locked in. There’s no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

Them or they means, “I don’t identify as he or she”. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And, we have politicians carrying on about pronoun policing, to which I say, “I remember a girl in my Year Ten class who asked our student teacher, Mrs Ueda, if she had a grey Falcon, and Mrs Ueda gently corrected her that it was a Holden. You wouldn’t insist it was a Falcon, unless there was something you knew that they didn’t. (For example, I remember a university lecturer who had a car but he only drove it to university once a month trying to remember what make of car he had. He said it was a red Mitsubishi, something. Finally, we came to see it was a Magna). So, if you wouldn’t do that, WHY, would you, if someone gently corrects you and says, “No, it’s they,” would you, unless you’re downright arrogant, say, “He,” or “She”, if they ask you not to?” If somebody asks you to say, “They,” respect it!

So, rather than worrying if something is grammatically correct, concentrate on the feelings and requests of the person you’re addressing, instead.



Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.

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Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.