Using Pronouns

2 minute read


I have some friends who I suspect might be confused by Elliot Page coming out. Specifically, when to use which pronouns.

Taking cues from their post and acting credit updates, they probably wish to be referred to in the past has either he or they (even though they outwardly identified as female at the time). So it’s ok to say “I loved him in Juno.” If he posts something about wishing this to be different in the future, this can change! This confused me a lot at first, and from experience seems different for different people. But for now, HE starred in the 2004 classic I Downloaded A Ghost.

He/they usually means he’s comfortable if you refer to him as EITHER he or they — you don’t have to switch for different grammar usages. If he posts something about wishing this to be different in the future, this can change! There’s a lot of reasons people allow multiple pronouns, but I won’t get into that here and I’m obvs not an expert.

If you’re trying to remember his name and can’t (“oooo who was that actor in that one movie, you know, the __ one”) it’s ok use trans as a descriptor. It’s not a dirty word, it is an adjective that varies from ok-because-we-need-to-normalize to worn proudly.

If you slip up, don’t make a big fuss. Just correct quickly if you remember (or someone else does) and move on — “I once saw her, I mean him, at a festival!”

Pronouns are simultaneously kind of the least important but also most important thing. Yes, the way you treat individuals and the way you feel in your heart is most important. But respecting their transitions means really accepting who they are NOW, and in that sense, who they’ve always been. And that includes pronouns. (If you’ve ever referred to yourself in the wrong gender in Spanish/French/German, you know how funny people find it and consequently how much it MATTERS).

it’s ok and pretty normal for this to be a learning experience. You’re not going to get “cancelled” for trying to learn or asking clarifying questions! If you’re confused about why this matters or have more specific questions you can ask me, or google, or comment below.

As always, I am learning as well, so if you have different experiences or know something I don’t about this (very likely) I’d welcome any and all feedback!