Is it okay to call somebody ‘it’?

‘It’ is my preferred pronoun, yet I rarely ask people to refer to me as ‘it’.  Too often I’ve met people who despite being pro-trans* rights, feel too uncomfortable to call a non-binary person ‘it’ – even if it was the person’s preferred pronoun – because of the pronoun’s history of being used in transphobic contexts, or feel that the pronoun objectifies.

Yet I still like ‘it’ as a pronoun.  Similar to singular ‘they’, ‘it’ has the advantage of being a word that everybody is already familiar with, unlike the multitude of strange sounding, made up gender-neutral pronouns.  But ‘it’ is also more often than not used specifically as a gender-neutral pronoun.  Whereas singular ‘they’ is instead frequently used as a gender non-specific to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant – e.g. in the sentence ‘If anybody calls, take their name and ask them to call again later’.  The singular pronoun ‘they’ has as much evolved to be a less cumbersome way of saying ‘she or he’ – particularly when speaking – than to be a specifically gender-neutral pronoun.  And so I feel far more affinity with the pronoun ‘it’ than ‘they’ – to me my gender is very much a specific gender, just one that happens to be gender-neutral.

Continue reading