A 73-year-old woman’s poignant poem about using gender-neutral pronouns has gone viral on Twitter.
The poem, fittingly titled “They”, was written by the elderly aunt of Theo Nicole Lorenz (pictured), a non-binary writer and artist from Minnesota.
“My 73-year-old aunt wrote a poem about my pronouns in her church writing group and it’s the sweetest thing,” Lorenz tweeted.
The poem reads: “This person I know / Wants to be called they. / It could bring us much closer / To see them that way. It’s a strange thing to think / And harder to say, / But they are so happy / When the effort is made. For all the theys and thems / It is this that I pray, / We be kind and accepting / And just let them be they.”
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US president Bill Clinton, retweeted the post and responded with the comment: “This is beautiful and wise.”
In response, Lorenz said: “Thank you, I’ll pass the compliment along to my aunt.”
Three years ago, Lorenz began going by the gender-neutral pronoun “they”.
“I knew there would be pushback,” Lorenz says about efforts to get people on board with their pronouns. “When you start using they/them pronouns, suddenly everyone around you is an English major, you know?”
It’s taken a few years, but Lorenz has found a great ally in Aunt Suzy.
“When I first came out to her, she understood my gender identity but not my pronouns,” Lorenz says.
“She said, ‘We always knew you were different, and we love you just the way you are.’ But also, on my pronouns — ‘I don’t know if I can get used to that. I’ll try.’ It’s taken her a few years.”
My 73-year-old aunt wrote a poem about my pronouns in her church writing group and it’s the sweetest thing pic.twitter.com/ROat6kdwPI
— Theo Nicole Lorenz (@TheoNicole) May 21, 2018
Lorenz credits her aunt with inspiring their interest in art, which led to a career as a professional illustrator.
“Whenever she and my late uncle were doing well, they’d send me money for art supplies. Her home was my creative retreat growing up,” they said.
“We’re both quiet artist types who’d rather stay home in a cocoon of cats and B movies than party. Every time we get together, it’s like no time has passed at all, and we talk for hours.
“Throughout her life she’s been a belly dancer, inventor, painter, woodcarver, and scuba diver, and I’ve always looked up to her.”
For Lorenz, using a person’s prounouns is really just a way to demonstrate common courtesy and show that you view them as a legitimate individual in the world.
“Using someone’s correct pronouns is a small, vital way to tell them, ‘You belong here,'” they said.
“When you refuse to use someone’s pronouns, you’re denying their identity. In the case of ‘they/them’ pronouns, a lot of people use grammar as an excuse to refuse it, which is like saying, ‘I value the grammar I learned in ninth grade more than your comfort.’”
As Aunt Suzy says, “just let them be they.”