While I’ve been thrashing around for a transgender pronoun, it appears the transgenders have solved the problem. The preferred word is they. (Brain Nonbinary,” by Virginia Heffernan, Wired, March 2019, pgs. 11-13.) Writer Virginia Heffernan posits they is appropriate because it reflects the “plurality of their experience,” (ibid, pg. 12.)
Naturally, when I discovered the new proposal, my schoolmarm brain exploded. Can there be a singular and a plural form of they, I wondered? Can they is exist equitably with they are? And here’s another conundrum. Does they are refer to a gathering of they, or does it refer to a someone with a multiple personality disorder?
Without question, they will require a new grammar. As a lover of the English language, I should be delighted by the challenge. But I’m not. I’m 82 and like countless numbers of elementary school children, grammar, once mastered, should never have to be revisited. I still smart over the death of the subjunctive, otherwise known as the wish tense: I wish I were now becomes I wish I was. I have many reasons to speak against this carelessness. But I don’t know where to begin, so I won’t.
One non-grammarian lamented, this new genderless, numberless pronoun, they, is so riddled with political correctness a person, “can’t say shit to anybody.” (Ibid, pg. 12.) I must nod my head in agreement. These are perilous times for those who seek clarity. Then again, this critic who cried out may have solved the riddle How about a new pronoun, altogether? If we borrowed “s” from “she” and “h” from “he,” and comingled these two letters with the neutered “it,” we would have our new word. SHIT. Or, shits for plural. Call it the “unspeakable” pronoun. I mean no offense to my transgender friends, but too much political correctness strains my good will.