The thing about gender is that the only thing that really dictates it is you. If you identify as one gender or another (or more than one or none), the thing that determines that? You. Not your pronouns, your presentation, nothing other than how you identify. (As Liam Kelly points out, what really makes a man is identifying as one.)

As a society, we see gender as a binary, as an either or system that is governed by a set of rules. But the thing is: gender is a lived reality, an experience that is just as unique as every individual. Trying to fit every single person into one box or another isn’t going to always work.

Of course there are people who do fit into the gender binary, people that identify with how they were assigned at birth or even binary trans people. But the thing is that not every person should be forced into that narrative. Or forced into the “born in the wrong body” narrative that often comes with mainstream coverage of transgender identities. (Although there’s nothing wrong with either of those experiences, just that they shouldn’t be the universal.)

But the reason I wanted to write about this today was to look more in depth at pronouns. There are pronouns we see as gender specific, ones that are often associated with a specific gender. On the other hand, there are others that are considered gender neutral, ones that aren’t associated with one specific gender.

But the thing is – no matter what pronouns someone uses, that doesn’t necessarily determine their gender. Someone might use pronouns usually associated with one gender but not identify as that gender and that’s perfectly acceptable. (And should be respected.) There are so many reasons that are totally valid for why people might make the choice to use pronouns that seemingly go against what they identify as – safety, convenience, they like the pronouns. Literally all reasons are valid and should be respected.