Why I Don’t Ask for People’s Pronouns or Announce Mine

Arielle Isaac Norman
9 min readOct 12, 2020
I prefer you ask me whether I want you to assume, guess, or ask.

I prefer not to be asked for my “preferred pronouns.” In a world as diverse as ours, not everyone’s preferences can be catered to all the time. This leaves us with the question: should we ask everyone, no one, or only those who look “different” for their pronouns?

It won’t be othering, they say, because we’ll ask everyone.

But they won’t. Not only will they never get everyone else to ask all of us for our pronouns, but the wokest among us will, in most situations, only ask the queers, the gender non-conformers, the people who look like they might “have” pronouns. To the extent that their mission works, that this catches on, it will only do so among some well-meaning leftists who will learn to hesitate when they see someone like me, and then ask, essentially, “Are you a them yet?”

No no, I have to constantly tell people now, I’m not a them. People used to just assume I’m a vegetarian. Friends I’ve known for years will still sometimes, while inviting me to a BBQ, falter and say, “Oh sorry! I know you don’t eat meat, but, uh, we’ll have potato chips…”

It’s true that I don’t eat much meat and that I do eat a lot of vegetables. I treat meat like I treat cocaine. I don’t buy it, but, if someone else prepares it for me and it’s good shit, I might have some, depending on what I have to accomplish the next day.

Mostly, I just listen to my body and what it wants. This doesn’t make me a vegetarian (much less sober), but I understand that if you see a shorthair lesbian order a veggie burger, your brain is likely to make the short leap.

But now, colleagues and strangers alike not only assume vegetarianism but also default to the pronoun “they” for me. Having forgotten to ask, a host announcing me at a comedy show will often refer to me as “she” and then “correct” himself, sometimes clumsily apologizing to the audience and to me as I take the stage. Or she’ll confidently announce of me that “They are so funny; you’re going to love them!” Either way, the audience now thinks I’m a Them (sometimes after realizing a duo act or improv troupe isn’t about to take the stage). And as a comedian, and yes especially one who visibly doesn’t align with standard gender expectations, my first goal is to get people to see that I am…

Arielle Isaac Norman

Comedian and podcaster (Gender Fluids & Wrong Questions Only)