Her Brother Should've Taken My Advice Four Years Ago



I'm so glad the story has a happy ending. Is it possible that the parents would have initially reacted differently four years ago but they've evolved in the interim, or do you guys think they would have been as accepting this whole time? Pure speculation, I know, but speculation can be fun. And I have a test to not study for. (I am studying -- just taking a break. No need for an intervention.)


Oops -- I know we've had the "you guys" discussion before. I didn't even realize I was doing it. Let me amend that to "you all." ("Y'all," while perfectly fine in my book, is a regionalism of regions from which I do not hail. I'd rather replace "you guys" with "you all" than "y'all" when I catch myself, partly so I don't get totally laughed out of New York.)


English desperately needs a good second person plural pronoun.


@2: Here in SW Pennsylvania, we have "yinz," which is for singular and plural usage, and "all yinz," for addressing groups of three or more. We're more than happy to share our regionalism with all yinz.


In Minnesota everyone I know uses “you guys” as a gender neutral expression. It goes for women just as much as men, and the ladies use it just as much as the guys do. Slang does not adhere to rigid language rules.


Will@4 ~ Hey. Fuzzy Britches. You’re kinda cute!


Generally life requires us to do somethings that generate the feeling of anxiety when we anticipate them. Sometimes you have to take the plunge come what may.


@1, who knows? But it is certainly possible. People do evolve—some of them, anyway. The reaction of parents/family/friends to a LGBT person coming out is not binary. Not simply full acceptance or absolute rejection. Reactions land on spectrum, and often evolve over time. I've known plenty of gay people who were initially rejected by a family member when they first came out, but acceptance grew over time. Homophobic parents who are challenged with the Coming Out of their kid can face a massive cognitive dissonance. Reactions to that cognitive dissonance can vary a LOT. Some will dig in, isolate, and wall off their gay kid. Others will talk to friends or counselors or PFLAG or whatever, and come around to later acceptance.

That's one of the reasons coming out can be so frightening. The reaction of people to the news can be completely unpredictable.


Another way to look at it is that English HAS a 2nd person plural pronoun: you. That's what it was historically. It's the 1st person pronoun that disappeared (thee, thou). (Individuals of higher rank insisted on the singular "you" much the way they'd use the royal "we." In time, both singular and plural became "you.")

(I don't come from the south, but I'm more comfortable with "y'all" than with "you guys," though I'm fine with both.)

Now we're seeing the disappearance of the singular 3rd person (she, he, it) in favor of the ubiquitous 3rd person plural "they." Drives me nuts. We already have a perfectly good non-gendered 3rd person singular pronoun: it.


Yeah, my dad says over the course of 20 years or so (not the most recent 20 years, but a period of 20 years in the past) he came around to LGBTQ+ rights -- mostly by getting to know individual gay (& etc.) people and realizing how (surprise!) they're normal human people and their partners are normal human people and so on. Now he puts pride flags in our house and volunteers with his company's equivalent of a GSA. Many people actually do change for the better over time; I just try to believe that's enough for the future to not totally suck.


Fichu @9 I strongly prefer "they" to "it." You don't think "it" is at least a little dehumanizing? If you apply even a little bit of reasoning, in most cases the use of "they" in third person singular contexts isn't confusing (in my experience). At one time I lived with no less than three nonbinary people who used "they." It takes a minute to adjust, but once you get used to it, it's really not confusing.


Youz, or for a whole group: youznzes


@10: Even people who claim that people can't change don't believe it - that's why they're using rhetoric instead of guns.


@9: you mostly saved me a bunch of typing. "You" is the second person plural pronoun. "Thou" was the second person singular pronoun hundreds of years ago, but fell out of usage, so "you" today is also the second person singular pronoun. Yes, "you" can be limiting, and it can be confusing.

I disagree with your characterization of "it." It isn't just nongendered; it applies to things, not people.

The indeterminate gender pronoun is, in fact, "he." Of course, it's also falling out of favor because, well, that's probably obvious. We do not yet have a satisfactory replacement for "he" as the indeterminate gender pronoun. "They" is a poor one, since it is plural. (Yes, the same is true of "you," but I don't like that usage either.)


@14 you don't like which usage, the use of "you" for singular? Now that's old-school.

Me, I'm fine with how "you" works in English and I don't mind "they" doing the same thing, though I admit the transition to singular specific "they" felt jarring.


Yinz might like ASL, which distinguishes you-one, you-two, you-group, also we (you and I) from we (not including you), also they-animate (she and she) from they-inanimate (it and it) -- but not he from she.

Oh, maybe the best is that you aren't limited to one or two pronouned people, you can distinguish s/he1 from s/he2 from s/he3 (whatever their gender).

Will @4 you use yinz for singular too? I'm not a native speaker but I heard you singular, yinz plural.


It's interesting people seem to think "they" is new in singular usage. It's not. The word was borrowed from Vikings and has essentially always been used singularly to some degree.

"In short, English usage since the 14th century has widely embraced the use of they with a singular antecedent, especially in cases where the identity is unknown or unspecified."


PS, I really hate s/he. Just so damn awkward, orthographically and in pronunciation.


I used to feel that the switch to the singular they was ridiculous, and we should just admit that "he" is used generically. I still use "you guys" with no thought to gender, and can't really imagine ever bothering to switch, it's far too ingrained in my regional lexicon. However, I recently ran across this amazing piece of satire, and I would recommend it to any of you who enjoy thinking about these sorts of language questions (as I know many of you do). It caused me to reassess how I feel about this issue, which is saying something.



The second person plural pronoun is “yous”


hexalm: I think s/he only works in written form - you can't exactly pronounce it. "Sh'hee?"


Fichu @9: Wait, what? Are you sincerely advocating that we should refer to human beings as "it"? Please explain.


Also, I will join in celebrating the happy ending to this story. Was anyone else wondering if the letter was referring to the Korean boyfriend from a few weeks back? Obviously not because of the timeline, but I hope he too has decided to bite the bullet and come out and that things went similarly better than he had feared.


22-BiDanFan-- Nope, not telling anyone else how to speak, merely stating how words and phrases sound to me.


See it through this lens: sometimes, parents overrepresent their religious zeal to give their gay child an excuse not to come out to them. They sense that the child is not willing to share their private life with them, so they do them the favor of setting up a wall. I am not sure how conscious this is, but I do believe it happens at times.


Lovely ending and just in time to wish youse mob...Happy Thanksgiving.


Thank you LavaGirl. Does Australia have a Thanksgiving? I know Canada does. The story of the first American Thanksgiving is a bit dodgy and colonialistic, but I think the idea for the holiday is beautiful notwithstanding.


Ms Fichu will not be popular with Mr Savage. The assembled company will recall how Mr Savage actually refused to use (what he was told to be) someone's preferred pronoun at that university discussion when he and the moderator quoted-not-used a word that had fallen out of favour and a student who reportedly used the pronoun "it" took offence.

I'm managing quite nicely with "one" and nobody's gone all SJW on me about it.

M? Ridan @25 - It's plausible enough, though I'd guess that often that's what parents think to themselves when they really just would rather keep things as they are. I'd put it on a par with adult children who know their parents will accept them but feel ashamed of their hypocrisy, and therefore do them the favour of coming out in a suboptimal way that gives the parents a genuine reason to be angry.

Ms Muse @1 - Interesting question. The surface response is "Who knows?" Maybe they evolved; maybe during the interim they picked up vibrations from LW (how much of "intuition" is really just Holmesian observation?); one could write it in various directions. Should one infer your having a vision of a hypothetical out-coming before the parents were ready that would have caused a permanent estrangement?

As for Papa Muse (whom I am imagining running around in a Smurf costume), I hope he doesn't go too far in the other direction. While it's commendable when anyone comes to the understanding that we're not from Saturn or Neptune (avoiding the obvious U-know-where), a long life of change and infiltration keeps showing me how the OS/SS divide is bigger than I'd realized (along with how OS thinking that there isn't a divide doesn't help).

General Observation - Amidst the general rejoicing over the happy ending, can I ask people to spare a potential thought for poor Fiance, just in case this whole situation was a major contributing factor to the marriage's never occurring? Of course, F could have been a horrible person, the couple might have been just not right for each other, or F might have gone on to find a much better match, but F could easily be the sympathized-with writer of any of a number of letters we've seen.


Mtn. Beaver @16: I'm semi-fluent in ASL, and curious which construction you're thinking of when you say that ASL distinguishes "they-animate (she and she) from they-inanimate (it and it)"?


@2 CalliopeMuse
I'd never in a million years say "y'all" out loud, but I recommend it in informal writing.

@28 vennominon
"Mr Savage actually refused to use..."it""

I'd use it, but yikes, I'd be concerned the person wanted themselves referred to as a thing instead of a person out of a self esteem-ish issue.


@30 p.s.
" I recommend it in informal writing"

Scratch the "recommend"; I have no preference for how other people say it. Personally I feel a little weird about however I deal with it.

When I write it, it would be great if people figured I've invented some new accent to say it in that /wouldn't/ make it sound Southern.

When I say it here in Northern California I say "you all" or (with people I know very well) "you guys".


It's perfectly possible to say y'all without sounding southern. Just, ya know, say it, without having a southern accent. I do it all the time :)


OK OK, really what I want is for people to imagine I'm saying it in an accent that sounds THE OPPOSITE of southern.


@32 ciods
"Just, ya know, say it, without having a southern accent."

Oh, and as I wrote @31 I would /never/ ever say it; I can't bear to. It's when I /write/ it that I would like readers " to imagine I'm saying it in an accent that sounds THE OPPOSITE of southern."


@32 Standard practice. Kinda like how people from Texas are expected to sound like people from Alabama. And people from Alabama are confused with people from Tennessee, and people from Tennessee are expected to sound like they're from LA when they're not on camera. Which LA depends on where you're from.


All I know is, LA people should shut the fuck up about tacos.



Fichu @24, I'm still unclear. So you think that when someone is talking about a non-binary person, they should refer to that person as "it" rather than as "they" because "they" sounds wrong to you?

Follow-up question, did the first "they" in my previous question sound wrong to you? Would you have used the pronoun "it" there instead: "So you think that when someone is talking about a non-binary person, it should refer to that person as 'it' rather than 'they' because 'they' sounds wrong to you?" The "it" does not work there at all, IMO, because "it" does not refer back to a person. How would you have written my sentence without using "they"?

Venn @28, I too would find it difficult to refer to a human being as "it" even if that person requested such a pronoun, not lest I offend the person but lest I offend every other trans or non-binary person out there. If I met such a person I would probably do my utmost to dance around the pronoun.

Yes, the ex-fiancé could have been, bar the dates, the man with the Korean boyfriend who wrote in recently. I will join you in sympathising with him and hoping he has gone on to find as much happiness as LW's brother.


vennominon @28 I don't think my dad has gone "too far in the other direction," whatever that means. (Also not sure what the Smurfs have to do with anything?) I'd say he's just about your average leftie, but maybe a bit more pessimistic about 2020 than many. I was just trying to illustrate one time I know someone has changed for the better. I don't think he was exactly anti-gay before (though you could debate how harmful it is or isn't to be neutral on the subject), but now he definitely considers himself an ally (and acts like one, from what I've seen).


CalliopeMuse @1: Speculation is what we do around here.

clods @32: "Y'all" with a southern accent means "you", and the second person plural is "all of y'all". But without a southern accent, "you all" should work. So should the Canadian "yous".

It's great that this story worked out. Everyone should take Dan's advice, immediately, unless overridden by the commentary!


Venn @ 28 - "can I ask people to spare a potential thought for poor Fiance"

The only thought that comes to my mind is that the fiancé might very well be the one who threatened to out the LW's brother (when he didn't follow Dan's advice), and that might very well be what caused their breakup. Pure speculation, of course.


@9 & 11: a gender-neutral third person pronoun has existed in English for centuries: "one." For example, one can do anything one pleases. No need to introduce confusion by using a plural "they" to refer to a single person. Sometimes this confusion might even be deadly.


continuing comment 42: Sometimes this confusion might even be deadly, should firefighters die after searching for non-existent plural people when told "they" are still inside a burning building in reference to a single person.


pmeuhrer-- I do like "one." As a subject in the example you gave, it sounds quite nice. What's the object? "Give one a seat" doesn't sound right the way "give him a seat does." Same for indirect objects. "Give the book to one" doesn't work the way "give the book to her" does.

BiDan-- Are you unclear, or do you disagree? To reiterate (take note I rarely make my point a second time) I'm not telling "someone" or "they" how non-binary persons should be referred to. I'm merely saying what sounds right to my ears.


Muse @27, no we don’t have Thanksgiving and I agree that although it does have a dodgy past I think it’s a lovely celebration of family.. whoever might be in one’s family.
As the song says, “ It’s too damn hot” here at this time of year, even Xmas is best had by the beach. People clamour there at dawn’s crack to grab a park and a table..
Youse bunch of wankers / another slang phrase/ are still going on about words?
I agree with Fichu, ‘they’ is awkward. I wouldn’t call humans ‘it’ though, that is not correct either. They refers to plural and it refers to objects. I don’t much come across non binary people here, so the dialogue around language is not an issue I have to face. The person has a name, maybe best to use that.


I haven't heard people referred to as "it" very often.

"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again."

I like the distinction between humans and objects. Animals, idk I've heard mosquitos referred to "it" and "him" and I think it sounds better if you're not friendly with the animal.


@30 Interesting. I say “y’all” all the time but try not to write it - will do so in a text but even in informal email I find myself editing it out. I’m from the south so it rolls off the tongue easily, but perhaps I‘m overly sensitive to seeming like a bumpkin in writing.


I hope some non binary people are writing about their lives, it could be fascinating reading. When I feel into how I feel about gender in myself, I feel nonbinary, neither male or female, some other. Post The Change other. Not having the fertility cycle now for many years, I have the bodily freedom of men, yet still retain the physical body of a woman. Bliss baby.


@47 Vanilla Ice
"perhaps I‘m overly sensitive to seeming like a bumpkin in writing"

Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough to seeming like a bumpkin in writing; perhaps I shouldn't imagine I couldn't be taken for one. But I love that "y'all" is just 5 letters long.

Talking, it feels just as efficient to say "you all" or "you guys".


Fichu @44, as I said (I rarely make my point a second time, either), I am unclear. Your post implies that if it were up to you, you'd call non-binary people "it," not "they"; is that indeed what you are saying?
What about the use of "they" in sentences like mine, "So you think that when someone is talking about a non-binary person, they should refer to that person as "it"?" What pronoun would you use in that context? Does "it" sound right to your ears?

On the second person familiar plural, I like "y'all" in writing but I don't feel I could say it without affecting a Southern accent for the rest of the sentence. "Y'all" in writing gives a casual, colloquial air, which is sometimes what I want to achieve. The only thing that irks me is seeing it mis-apostrophe'd as "ya'll." Argh! "Ya'll" implies omitted letters between ya and ll -- it's not a contraction of "ya will"! One can be colloquially grammatically correct.

Over the pond, "you lot" is an acceptable second person collective pronoun. Though I have no objection to "you guys."


Actually, I make my point a second and third time frequently. Ha!


@ 42 - "a gender-neutral third person pronoun has existed in English for centuries: 'one'"

But as the very interesting article linked to @ 17 so clearly explains, so has "they" (attested 14th century).

It's misguided prescriptive grammarians who wished to impose a Latin-based grammar on English who decided it wasn't proper. Dickens, among many of the greatest writers in the English language, would have begged to differ.


Oh Ricardo, sign, when you speak intelligence is like when you speak French..
You all, what are the best break up albums? It’s a list that’s needed, Music is a must when heartbroken.
My vote is and has always been, Bobby Dylan’s ‘ Blood On The Tracks.’


Lava @ 53 - Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago springs to mind among more recent entries in the genre.


Ok Ricardo, I’ll write a list. Not one I know, then that’s not unusual. Talking in real time from across the universe. Cool.


@29 this is just from an intro class, but my teacher (native speaker, from the Midwest IIRC) uses an angle below horizontal for inanimate. Have you seen that used?


@17 "In short, English usage since the 14th century has widely embraced the use of they with a singular antecedent, especially in cases where the identity is unknown or unspecified."

More than especially, pretty well exclusively, no? The article has good examples, but every one involves a "one" or "everybody" nonspecific reference syntactically above the person being referred to with "they".

The use for a specific known person is genuinely new (= much higher rate than before), and people react to that. Singular they is old but people are also griping about a real thing.


Only you and me on the list so far Ricardo, music another shared joy, along with hairy men.


Southern born and raised here and I've been trying to break the y'all (might as well write it as 'yawl') since I took a speech class my senior year in HS where we studied differences in regional speech, Taking Spanish and French also helped since I had to initially break it down to apply the correct suffix. I now tend to be quick in adjusting my phrasing to the audience I'm speaking with. The one contraction I absolutely detest, have excised from my vocabulary, and refuse to use no matter the audience is "ain't". My parents, good Southerners that they were, never used it, and English teachers figuratively beat it out of us. Unfortunately, many people across America should know better but use it anyway. To my ear, it simply sounds like fingernails down a chalk board.


Lava @53, anything by the Cure or the Smiths. Or Leonard Cohen.

Beaver @57, yes, using "they" to refer to a specific individual is a newer use and it does feel clunky and can be confusing. Only way for it to feel less so is to get used to it through repeated use until it feels more natural.

Jon @59, we used to say, "Don't say ain't, ain't ain't a word." :)
I did live in the South long enough to appreciate "y'all" is singular, "all y'all" is plural. :) And to develop a taste for sweet tea.


Thanks Fan, I’ll add your suggestions to the list.
Music 🎶 can help mend a broken heart. Or to maintain general well-being.
How quickly a melody can take one back to a time and place and emotion.


I used to have sugar in my tea, Fan. Then once, while still a Catholic, I gave it up for Lent. Never took it up again, the sugar. Not sure I ever gave up much else for Lent.


Mt. Beaver @56 Ah, yes, that tracks. Though the distinction in height can be used to indicate a lot of things, including authority/subordinate, older/younger, or even just taller/shorter.


JB @ 59 - "Ain't" is a totally correct ancient form from Scotland. The movement to eradicate it under the pretense that it "ain't a word" originates in the fact that it had spread in the black population in the U.S. south, and therefore was marked as non-standard and therefore unworthy of white speakers. In other words: racism, pure and simple.


PS to 64 - Seems I was stuck in "therefore" mode...


Ms Muse - "Non-straights are just normal people," is on a parallel plane to "being colour-blind", at least in that it is often received as, at a minimum, much less complimentary than many who make the statement with admittedly good intentions want it to be taken.

Ms Cute and I have had a number of conversations about the relative superiourity of integration to assimilation. I would take a straight person who thought me just as normal as oneself to be the sort who would prefer me to assimilate. There's also a novel of a Ms Kerr called I'll Love You When You're More Like Me.


I'd describe almost anybody as pretty much a normal human person, even if many others would consider them out of the ordinary, so perhaps I'm mischaracterizing my father's change in thinking. I don't know his opinions on your concept of assimilation, but given that we belong to a group of people who have lost much to assimilation with Christian culture ourselves (including a thousand-year-old language that's basically dead now), I don't think he'd look too favorably upon it. I could ask him, but that would entail telling him how the hell the topic came up, and that is something I'd rather avoid.


@63 ah, interesting, so "it" = a tall tree might be upward even though inanimate? I've also wondered if "He" = God gets distinguished upward.


Just gonna chime in to say this is what happens when you say homophobic things to or in front of your children. There are consequences. Even when your son or daughter comes out and it’s all fine those things that were said can never be unsaid.