The Singular “They” Is Grammatically Correct, Dammit

Hello!

I just read your identity pronoun piece on Medium and I would like to converse with you about a few questions I have.

My child is currently identifying as non-binary. My only issue is from a grammar stand point. I struggle with referring to an individual in a plural way due to years of grammar education. I truly feel that I (and possibly others) may catch on quicker if it didn’t seem like we were being incorrect with the grammar by being correct in addressing the person.

I truly ask this with an open heart and mind. Do you think due to the creation of the subset — or acknowledgement as it were- that it may be easier for those outside the set to be mindful and those in the set to become recognized?

I look forward to your commentary.

Regards,
Renee’


This is a real email that I received, though I did edit it to be shorter. 

Here is my reply.


Hi Renee’,

I hear ya with the kind intention of this question. You’re not alone in asking it — many, many people do not like the use of the “singular they” as a nonbinary pronoun.

Here are a few resources for you.

Other options for third person pronouns:

Many transgender, gender non-confirming (GNC), and nonbinary folks in the US have been using pronouns aside from he or she for decades. Ze, hir, zir, xie, ey, and per are just a few that some of my community has used over the years. Here is a table of many of the different third-person gender pronouns used in English.

In GNC communities, people choose which pronoun they feel best fits them and resonates for them. The use of the singular they was always one of many, but it is only recently that it has become widely accepted in the mainstream English speaking / US environment.

Why singular they is okay:

Singular they was declared the word of the year by the American Dialect Society in 2015.

It has been in consistent use as a third person singular pronoun since the 1300s. Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Emily Dickinson all use it in their work. The wikipedia entry on it breaks it down quite well. Here is another longer history of the usage of the singular they.

Whether or not you realize it, most people already use the singular they. It is just used more generically, rather than individually. Teen Vogue has a good write-up of the common questions asked about nonbinary pronouns.

Because singular they has been used for so long, it is generally the easiest third person nonbinary pronoun for people to grasp.

Which do you think is easier to say?

  • they went to the store
  • ze went to the store
  • pe went to the store

On changing language:

I get that it’s hard to change the use of something that has always been one way. But language changes all the time. Here’s a list of TED talks that discuss how language is fluid and changes.

Language is solidified by those in power. Those who have been in power have been (are) cisgender people. But language is more of a living thing that both reflects and shapes cultural norms. Changing the language changes the oppression of marginalized people.

Using singular ‘they’ also helps with another major feminist linguistic issue: the way we default to using he/him pronouns as general examples in English. Using they/them solves that problem, and is much less awkward than using “s/he” or “she or he,” and challenges the use of maleness as the norm.

Here are two books for you:

A Quick & Easy Guide to
They/Them Pronouns
The Gender Book


Perhaps this part is the most important:

It takes uncomfortable change to be inclusive and supportive of marginalized people.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable to use the singular they. Yes, it means you will probably mess up as you are getting used to it, and perhaps hurt some people’s feelings, and perhaps have to apologize and learn and do better, and that is uncomfortable. But it is essential to try in order to make a world that can be more welcoming, inclusive, and celebratory of marginalized and oppressed folks.

This is a very clear, very concrete way that nonbinary people are asking to be supportive. Please do it.

Last, but not least:

Please consider doing your own Google research before asking nonbinary people, such as myself, to do research and explain things to you. This has taken an hour of my time that I could be otherwise working for money, being with my friends, or creating my own art.

I decided to do this for you because I am going to use this as my next article and make it public. But next time, please use Google — or a librarian, whose job it is to help you find information! — and educate yourself. There are thousands and thousands of articles, videos, and offerings online that already explain the things you’re asking me.

Things you could Google for additional research:

  • how to use the singular they
  • why use singular they
  • history of singular they
  • is singular they grammatically correct
  • how to be supportive of nonbinary people
  • alternative third person pronouns
  • use of singular they in literature
  • changing language over time

Asking nonbinary people to do work to educate cis people is a form of emotional labor that costs us time, effort, and energy. It is incredibly common for nonbinary people to be asked to educate cis people, and it is exhausting.

Next time you ask for labor like this, at least offer to compensate. I do coach people on gender, sexuality, and relationship issues, and I would be happy to consider coach you further. Contact me if you wish to pursue that.

In conclusion: 

If you agree with me, great. Please share this.

Perhaps you do not agree with me, and you’re one of those people who only uses “cool” to describe temperature. But if you insist on prioritizing grammar rules above honoring nonbinary people, I insist on thinking you’re a jerk.

Sincerely,
Sinclair

Pronouns: they/them

PS: If you appreciate the time I put into this article, please consider supporting me on Patreon or making a PayPal donation to my email address, [email protected]

The Best Queer Sex Blogs

A friend of mine emailed me this week asking for recommendations for other queer erotica online. I emailed her back with some links off the top of my head, but I’ve been pondering this question since then … where ARE all the queer sex bloggers? The ones who write erotica, I mean, not the ones who are writing sex commentary (because there are certainly some of those) or about butch/femme culture (ditto some of those) or who are reviewing toys (also some good ones) or are actual video/photographic porn (yay, but not erotica) or who aren’t writing anymore (there are a few who haven’t updated in years).

Kinkly has a top sex bloggers ranked list, but they don’t specify if they’re queer or not, or what kind of sex blog it is—and most of the ones at the top are sex toy blogs.

So here’s some recommendations of my personal favorite places to go read smutty erotica words written by and about queers. Am I missing anyone? Leave comments with recommendations, please!

1. BD Swain, www.bdswain.com

stare-hard-1

From the micro-stories on her Instagram to the longer works on her blog, BD Swain has written some of my favorite smut ever. Mostly butch/femme, but switchy, and includes some other pairings occasionally.

Excerpt from Stare Hard:

My fingers on her panties, pushing between her lips, feeling the wet lace between her legs. My own wet fingers on my belt buckle. Feeling like there’s no time. Not enough time. For hours, all night, not enough. Her skin is so soft. I stare down at her as I trace the outlines of her body with my fingertips. Sliding my fingers down each leg and back again to her pussy. “Spread your legs wider,” I say, bending over, “Let me smell you.”

Also, if you like BD’s dirty photos, pick up her custom deck of poker cards. So hot.

2. Xan West, xanwest.wordpress.com

ShowYourselftoMe

Mostly they write about writing erotica, and there are not as many actual erotic stories on their site, but there are excerpts from their upcoming novel “Shocking Violet.” Definitely check out his new book Show Yourself To Me (there’s one story from that book on Sugarbutch, called “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”).

Excerpt from A Tease from Shocking Violet:

She laughed. “So you want a free show, hmm? Well let me do it right, then.” And she slowly peeled off her high-necked black cat sweater. Jax stilled, stopped breathing. A couple of thick straps held up a gorgeous neckline. He could see her bare throat, and her arms. All that skin and ink. And her cleavage…damn. Fuck if she didn’t shimmy again for him, all tease and arched back, a wicked grin on her face.

“Don’t forget to breathe, honey,” she drawled.

She was right. He wasn’t fucking breathing. He licked dry lips and tipped his glass to her before taking a swallow of cool water.

3. Words Can Be Sexy, wordscanbesexy.com

queer quickies

Written by non-monogamous, trans, queer femme Olivia Dromen, hir work is incredibly sexy and detailed and well-written and full of genderqueerness. This is a new link for me, so I’m excited to dive into the archives and devour it all.

Excerpt from [Short] Overwhelmed:

“Take off your panties and lay down across my knee.” Zir voice is very calm, as if this is something we do every day.

It isn’t.

Ze pats zir knees with both hands.

4. Kyle, www.butchtastic.net

cropped-KyleBrowngradient

Butch/femme, butch/butch, writings about gender … Kyle has been one of my favorite bloggers since he started Butchtastic.

Excerpt from I Know What You Been Doing:

“I found your magazines, girl. Found your nasty magazines with their sticky pages. I know what you do with those magazines.” My hips are pressing a little harder against your ass. The hand around your waist has dropped a bit lower, my hand now resting on your thigh. My other hand is tightening slightly across your throat. You squirm against me with a groan. ”You like lookin’ at those men with their cocks hangin’ out, don’t you? You look at those dirty pictures and rub your naughty cunt, don’t you?”

“Daddy… I’m sorry… what… what are you going to do to me?” The mixture of anticipation and fear in your voice makes my clit pulse.

5. Trans Fag Sex Journals, transfagssexjournals.blogspot.com

From the description: “two transfags of color living in a big city, exploring safe anonymous play with bio-boys.” This is new to me, and doesn’t have updates since 2014, but the archives are rich and interesting.

Excerpt from the threesome:

we move to my bedroom. i lie back and my regular begins sucking me off. bottom boy drops his cock into my mouth and i blow him. then they switch places i suck my regular’s cock while bottom boy blows me. i grab condoms. my regular moves between my legs and pushes into me. i sit up so i can suck his boy’s cock while he fucks me. this goes on for a while then my regular asks bottom boy if he wants to fuck me. he nods.

67. Rebekah Weatherspoon, www.rebekahweatherspoon.com/blog

Rebekah doesn’t have a lot of stories online, but she has tons of ebooks and they’re fantastic. Her book “At Her Feet” is a Mommy/girl story, and it’s fantastic. She’s also an avid erotica reader and has tons of recommendations of other titles, and also runs WOC in Romance, highlighting romance written by women of color (not queer, but important!).

7. Kiki Delovely, kikidelovely.wordpress.com

Kiki’s work is mostly in erotica anthologies, but she does have some excerpts on her blog.

Excerpt from Yes, Daddy:

“I’m going to have to shove my big, hard cock inside of you and fuck you until you’re screaming out in pain, our guests watching and waiting. After that, I’ll leave you to them, allowing them to do with you as they please.”

“NO, Daddi!” I cry out before I can catch myself. Your free hand lands severely on my ass, harder this time, my body uncontrollably releasing a violent jerk as I swallow the pain.

“You will take your punishment like a good grrl.”

8. Jen Cross, writingourselveswhole.org

Jen has run Writing Ourselves Whole, writing workshops “at the intersection of sex and trauma,” for a decade, and her work is phenomenal. She doesn’t have a lot of her erotic writing online, but she did undertake a masturbation May project, We Can Come Home, a few years back and that is fascinating to read. Her work explores the very complicated intersection of desire and healing, and much of it is explicit.

Excerpt from Opening the Throat:

Today I did it the new way, me in my shower, back bent against the porcelain, shower head switched to massage and held between my legs, the water hot as I can stand it. I say, Good morning, body. This is for us today. I say, thank you. I float into the conversation with my mother, then pull myself back. That was last night, that was another moment, that is not what I’m here for now. Now I’m in the bliss of your mouth (the water is so much easier to make into a mouth than the vibrator — a new development for my fantasy life), maybe we’re at a fancy bathroom at a fancy party and you shift aside my long skirt to find stockings, garter belt — and nothing else. Then you are asking me to sing, and I moan into the white quiet of my bathroom. I get loud, breathe hard, cry out, oh my god oh my god oh my god. This is a new way, too.

9. Jack Stratton, www.writingdirty.com

Jack writes mostly m/f erotica—and some of my very favorite smut of all time—but he also has a variety of gay erotic pieces, which I find complex and interesting. Not exactly a queer erotica writer, but he’s pretty queer, and you might find things you like in his extensive archives.

Excerpt from The Shaving Lesson:

“You just keep watching her finger fuck herself. You keep your eyes on her and then it doesn’t make it gay that I’m jerking you off,” Adam teased with a cruel laugh.

Henry felt the fear mix with a little anger. It felt like Adam was reading his mind and laughing at him.

“I’ll let you know when I think of an excuse that will keep you straight while you suck my cock.”

10. Benji Bright, Underwear Tales

Benji-Bright-by-Johnny-Murdoc-1
Benji Bright’s work was recommended to me by Xan West, and I’m very glad to have discovered it. He has many stories in anthologies and, recently, his own short story collection Boy Stories.

From He Doesn’t Want to Call It What It Is:

He doesn’t want to call it what it is. The words nag at him, but it is easy to shake them off when there’s someone else’s tongue pressed hard against him, slavering, and using the mouth to which it’s attached in order to shape filthy words: ‘I’m going to use your hole,’ ‘I’m going to fill you up with my spit and cum,’ ‘I’m going to fuck you like the beast you are.’

11.

Giselle Renarde, Donuts and Desires

giselle
I adore Giselle Renarde’s work. She is in dozens of anthologies, and has an elaborate page of free smut online at her blog.

From Prude’s Failsafe Advice for Eating Ass:

With a giggle and a growl, Gloria went at my hole like crazy. She licked it up and down, then swirled around in circles. She was forceful about it, too. When she thrust her tongue into my ass, my soul just about jumped from my body. I watched her do it, and still I was in disbelief. If it wasn’t for that slip of latex separating her from me, I’d never have let her do this. I didn’t mind so much, though, knowing she was tasting raspberry and not me.

Gloria made happy noises as she lunged at my ass, fucking me with her tongue. It felt fat inside me, with far more girth than her finger. As she went at me, I reached for my clit and found it engorged, my pussy dripping with juice.

Bonus

  • Also check out the guest post section here on Sugarbutch – mostly the guest posts include the authors I’ve mentioned above, but you still might find something exciting.
  • Someone suggested Archive of Our Own, which is primarily fan fiction but includes quite a bit of queer erotica if you’re willing to dig through the archives.
  • There are a few internet archive sites of erotica that include queer work, like Nifty, which is exclusively LGBT, Literotica, and Lust Stories, but the quality is very hit-and-miss.

There MUST be other gay boy erotica blogs out there, but I don’t know them. I mean there must be other queer erotica blogs in general—please tell me this list is incomplete! Honestly, I have been looking and asking on Twitter & Facebook and this is the best of the best that I can come up with. Who have I missed? Do you write erotica & share it online?

Please let me/us all know in the comments!