Tarzan Kay


March 27, 2024

to you

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unsubscribing from the gender binary

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a spokesperson for all queers. Not even close. What follows are my observations and personal preferences.

What’s up with “she/they” pronouns, anyway?

If you’re confused about pronouns and how they work, welcome to 2024.

The first thing cisgender people should know about pronouns is that it’s okay to mess them up. Trans people mix them up too. This is normal. The language we use to talk about gender and bodies is rearranging and it’s a bit messy. Moving on.

It’s also okay to not know, to not understand, and to ask for clarification. For example:

“May I ask what pronouns you prefer?”
“Do you prefer she or they?”

Usually (but not always), people who use she/they or they/he like a mix of both.

Usually (but not always), genderqueer people prioritise the pronoun that best describes them. For example, if someone’s preferred pronouns are he/they, that person probably prefers “he” most of the time, but enjoys a dash of “they” now and then, as a way of affirming the full expanse of their gender expression.

A few months back I met a woman at a conference who uses she/they pronouns. “That sounds like me,” I thought, even though I wasn’t sure why.” She didn’t have big they energy, and neither do I.

But when I got home I changed my pronouns on LinkedIn to she/they, just to see how it felt.

I want to dissociate my work from my gender, two things that are not related IMO. In practice, using “she/they” draws extra attention to my gender. I am aware of this paradox, and chose to change my pronouns anyway.

I didn’t think about it too much. I made the edit and moved on. Then I caught this review one of my Email Stars left on Google:

5-star Google review from Ellen Lyman, "Tarzan Kay is so real, so helpful, and will teach you things. Their values-based approach to business is something I trust and appreciate."
Shout to Career Coach Ellen Lyman


This is exactly what I was hoping for. No gender identification necessary. The paradox being that it also perfectly validated my gender expression.

More evidence:

This feels good.

This feels like me.

Then I caught this post by Elana Jefferson Tatum, PhD on LinkedIn:

A Linkedin post from Elana Jefferson-Tatum, PhD that says: Let’s talk about pronouns. I’m a Black cis-gender woman and I choose to use she/they pronouns. For me, “she” reflects my womanist, goddess, mother-creator self! She is fierce, creative, and free. “They” reflects my refusal to shave my legs, my queerness, my asexuality, and my mother-communal self. They is unapologetic, undisciplined, and community-grounded. In the words of my favorite African proverb, “We are, therefore, I am.”


More pieces coalescing for me, a walking paradox who loves smooth legs but doesn’t shave her armpits, a person with a genitalia preference but not a gender preference (that sentence makes me blush, just FYI).

Still I wondered, “Am I appropriating from non-binary people? Is this allowed? Can I use she/they but still be firmly identified as ‘woman’?”

Here’s my take:

“They” can mean a lot of things.

>> It’s an inclusive alternative to “his or her” when speaking about people as a collective.

>> It’s the pronoun preferred by many non-binary people (tho not all).

>> In my case, using “they” as one of my preferred pronouns is a way of unsubscribing from the gender binary.

No one gets to tell you what you can and can’t call yourself.

Every day trans people are fighting the fight to exist in the world according to their own definition, and that fight is for all of us.

It’s not an easy path.

Many days it feels like a losing battle, as the rights of trans people are stripped away in many states across the U.S. The anti-trans movement is gaining momentum here in Canada, too, where the discussion of gender and sexual identity in school is being called into question, as well as the right for kids to determine their own pronouns.

Let it be known that the trans agenda is liberation for everyone.

You can show your support by sharing your pronouns when prompted and adding them to your social accounts. (As opposed to doing this, an icky trend that LinkedIn trainer Kate Merryweather posted about recently.)

Sharing pronouns normalises the practice and makes it safer for trans people to do so as well, with the added benefit of making all genderqueer people more difficult to target.

Again, no one gets to tell you what to call yourself.

That’s called “identity gatekeeping” and you shouldn’t do this to anyone, least of all yourself.

Keep your assigned pronouns if they feel good to you; Try new ones if you think something might fit better.

Pronouns are just words. The beauty of language is the way it bends to suit the needs of the culture.

It’s okay to change your mind, as many people have done.

No one is coming to handcuff you to a set of pronouns and throw away the key.

…though I wouldn’t rule out handcuffs entirely ‍♀️


Recommended resources:

Gender Magic by Rae McDaniel (also a speaker at Trudi Lebron’s Equity-Centered Coaching Summit)

️ Alex Kapitan’s Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing about Transgender People

Gender Reveal, a podcast about nonbinary and transgender folks

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There are several easter eggs hidden in this newly-updated newsletter template. Can you find them all?  (Hint: tell me how much you like this email, and don’t be afraid to vote twice.)

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Mastermind enrollment coming soon

I’m in Malta with my mastermind this week, wrapping 9 months of what is undoubtedly the best mastermind I’ve ever led.

The next round will have a heavy focus on AUDIENCE GROWTH. Interested?

Click here to add yourself to the waitlist. I’ll definitely do a “waitlist only” deal or special bonus for early-enrollees.

<<This is where a picture goes but I promised my members at both events, “Show up in your jammies if you want. This isn’t a promotional event for Tarzan.” So you’ll have to use your imagination.>>

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