In HOW TO THEY/THEM, Stuart Getty has created a “safe space” for folks learning about non-binary pronouns and gender fluidity. This lively and friendly book asks and answers many of the awkward questions and uncomfortable curiosities friends and families of non-binary and trans-people might have. With humor and gentle chiding, Getty manages to teach and entertain with a combination of lighthearted banter and assertive guidance. What makes this such an effective resource for those new to gender fluid language is its clear, repetitive, and kind approach to teaching. And while Stuart Getty shouldn’t have to educate the masses, readers will feel a deep gratitude that they chose to do so.
With sections like THEY 101, Sex Assigned At Birth (SAAB), and “But It’s Grammatically Incorrect!” the book brings up everything from how to pronounced THEY, including where to place your tongue to create the “th” sound, to conjugating pronouns that include the singular they — complete with charts. A direct explanation of different acronyms and labels includes history, uses, and common confusions. Getty defines and discusses the “big three” concepts: Sex Assigned at Birth, Gender Identity, and Sexual OrientationThe illustrations by Brooke Thyng are equally instructive and whimsical. She draws hearts and smiley faces with the same simplicity and irreverence as ovaries and peens. Thyng’s drawings reflect the open-hearted and pointed guidance of Getty’s words.
One of the most immediately helpful parts of the book is Getty’s section about “What do I do if I mess up?” Using someone’s pronouns correctly and consistently can be challenging for those who have known a person for a long time. The advice on gracefully handling an error is invaluable; the short version is: “Fix it and move on.” The longer versions include language for apologizing, examples of mistakes others have made and how they’ve fixed them, and an admission that while we are all fallible, and we all deserve and owe respect and empathy.
Stuart Getty’s HOW TO THEY/THEM is a perfect introduction to using a person’s proper pronouns and understanding the fluidity of gender with dignity and care. Highly recommended.