Reading an article on the ABC news site I came across the following sentence: “They came out as non-binary in 2019 and has spoken publicly about their experiences to help improve public awareness of what it means to be genderqueer.”
I am fully supportive of people who identify as non-binary and I’m proud of the wave of gender acceptance that has swept through most Western countries, but the use of ‘they’ as a personal pronoun in these circumstances is doing my head in. It clangs dissonantly in my head like the sax solo in My Lovely Horse.
I also listen to a podcast where the host has a non-binary child, and again every mention of ‘they’ causes a stutter in my psyche as I have to mentally backtrack and deconstruct what has just been said.
What was the justification and history for using this? The problem is that ‘they’ is already an awkward word in English, carrying both singular and plural meanings; it already has grammatical baggage. Shoehorning another usage in is too much. Also, when used in the genderqueer context I find that ‘they’ carries the slight whiff of pretention, sort of like the royal ‘we’.