Whilst a large majority of society has progressed in terms of knowledge and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, the debate surrounding personal pronouns is ongoing… and the latest topic? Neopronouns.

Personal pronouns refer to how someone who is gender-nonconforming chooses to identify. For example, someone who was born biologically male but who’s gender identity does not conform to that typically associated with men may choose to identify as a woman and therefore go by she/her pronouns. Additionally, people who feel as if they don’t identify with either gender, or identify with both simultaneously, may choose to identify as non-binary, therefore going by they/them pronouns. The use of these pronouns is not something everyone is on board with; specifically, the use of they/them, as many people believe that gender-nonconformists should “pick a side”, or that they/them poses grammatical issues and confusion.

Neopronouns, however, are pronouns that are not officially recognised in the language they are used in and are meant to give gender neutral people more choice in how they wish to be referred to. People may choose to use neopronouns because they want to avoid singular “they” being confused with plural “they”, or simply because they prefer them over standard pronouns. The original neopronouns, such as xe/xem, ze/hir, and ey/em, were mostly accepted by the LGBTQ+ community, as they were seen as harmless alternatives to they/them. However, new developments in the neopronoun world such as themes of animals (frog/frogself) , plants (aloe/loe) and even pokemon characters (pi/pika) have lead people to believe it has been taken too far, and perhaps even makes the community seem like a joke.

In a recent thread on the social media app TikTok, users have discussed this subject and whether or not they agree with the use of these themed neopronouns. One user comments: “You can’t force us to call you nicknames. I will respect pronouns; not nicknames that I don’t feel comfortable saying. I’m not calling anyone kitten”. Another adds: “I respect everyone’s pronouns, but I think it can be damaging to the community when it crosses the line from expressing a gender identity, to expressing an aesthetic”. Opposingly, a neopronoun-user came to their own defence, stating that “It’s not just a nickname to me. For example, I don’t like ‘mew’ as a name but mew/mews gives me gender euphoria”.

Many people have argued that neopronouns relating to a theme such as animals or mystic creatures are very comforting for neurodivergent people to use. This is because neurodivergent people, especially those on the autistic spectrum, tend to have trouble understanding and relating to societal norms and social constructs. Therefore, since gender has been found to be a social construct, they may have a complicated relationship with their gender identity. For example, neurodivergent social media influencer @d0llsoup uses the pronouns bun/bunself; however, people have criticised bunself for this as they speculate that bun may be using these pronouns simply to fit a certain aesthetic (bun is seen most of the time wearing bunny ears).

So, this begs the question; is there a line between what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to pronouns? If so, where is it drawn? It’s an ongoing conversation within the LGBTQ+ community and is now expanding into wider society. So, what do you think?