SAN ANTONIO – Pronouns -- they describe a person, place or thing, but nowadays, they mean so much more to those who are non-binary and gender fluid.
“I am a queer, trans, non-binary fem,” Erica Alcocer, community empowerment coordinator at Pride Center San Antonio, said.
It might seem like a long way to introduce yourself, but for Alcocer, each label holds a specific meaning.
“Queer is a really comfortable word for me,” Alcocer said. “In my generation, I believe we really believe ourselves as queer in so many aspects of sex, gender and sexuality. And non-binary really just to me rejects the gender binary.”
But what is a non-binary person?
Robert Salcido Jr., executive director at Pride Center San Antonio, said it’s people who don’t prescribe to societal gender norms.
“They see themselves as just an individual,” Salcido said. “They see themselves as who they are but again may not prescribe as male or female.”
So how does this relate to pronouns?
“When we think about pronouns, people often associate it with the LGBTQ+ community,” Salcido said, “However, pronoun usage is something that should be normalized for all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Pronouns don’t have to necessarily indicate gender,” Alcocer said.
Alcocer uses the pronouns they/them because as mentioned before, they don’t identify as woman or man.
And using “they” to describe a person is not something uncommon.
“One researcher at Penn State said really 90% of the time when we don’t know someone’s gender, we already are using ‘they’ quite a bit,” Bridget Drinka, professor of linguistics at the University of Texas in San Antonio said. “We’ve been doing this for centuries.”
Drinka said the majority of the English language is ungendered. And the trend of using “they” as a way to replace “he,” “she” or “it” has been going on since 2009, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
“On Twitter was the first usages of somebody using a ‘they,’ precisely to refer to someone who didn’t want to identify their gender,” Drinka said.
For Alcocer, it’s the best way to express themselves.
“Because it’s who I really am and it’s who I would have been if I was a child and giving that space to understand,” Alcocer said. “I grew up in a very non-oppressive, non-homophobic or transphobic space. Allowed to dress up and to really play with gender, which is really beautiful.”
It’s something everyone can participate in regardless of gender status.
“Like in our email signatures,” Salcido said. “On our, you know, our social media handles and even in our Zoom display names.”
Ultimately creating a more inclusive society for those who identify as non-binary or gender-fluid.
“I believe that our society doesn’t allow youth and children to understand gender as a spectrum, which it is just like our emotions,” Alcocer said. “To me, I feel seen when someone uses ‘they,’ ‘them’ or ‘elle’ pronouns. I feel loved, I feel appreciated and recognized.”