A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS clearly explains gender neutral pronouns. Despite the limitations of the short comic, Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson creatively demonstrate how to use they/them pronouns and respect non-binary identities. Bongiovanni's scrappy characters and skillful line-work lends humor to the important comic.
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Learn Something New!

Limerence Press’ A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS from is as delightful as it is educational. The comic neatly explains the pronoun “they/them,” typically used by non-binary people, who don’t identify as male or female. Authors Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson review language and cultural shifts, emphasizing that respecting pronouns is part of respecting people.

The GUIDE is ideal reading for anyone looking to make safer spaces for the queer community. (We know you’re out there!) Additionally, this comic is geared both towards non-binary readers and cisgender (non-trans) readers. It is an especially useful primer for those who may not be familiar with the concept of they/them pronouns. As promised, Bongiovanni and Jimerson make understanding gender neutral pronouns “quick and easy.”

Image courtesy of Limerence Press.

Simple, neat, and full of humor, A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS unpacks what many find troubling. First, the comic reassures that singular they/them pronouns are not an attack on the English language. However, linguistics nerds might be somewhat disappointed. The GUIDE leaves out some of the more interesting grammar arguments that people use in favor of singular they/them. Linguistics aside, Bongiovanni and Jimerson instead choose to focus on important examples of real-world situations that non-binary people often face.

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Readers may recognize Bongiovanni’s loveable grunge aesthetic from their webcomic GREASE BATS.  The GUIDE is slightly cleaner-cut than Bongiovanni’s other work, scaling back on some of their typical unconventional underground vibes. Nevertheless, they successfully maintain an alt-queer, zine-like feeling. Bongiovanni’s quick gestures and smooth lines capture the playful enthusiasm shared by our narrators: snarky Archie and sincere Tristan. Ultimately, Bongiovanni’s work fits A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS perfectly. 

Image courtesy of Limerence Press.

Bongiovanni rebelliously rejects formal elements, keeping the focus on the narrators and their message. The comic embodies a comfortable, easy-going attitude that lends itself well to the purpose of the GUIDE. The narrators tackle important issues, including coming out as non-binary in the workplace and the emotional effects of being misgendered. However, the sweet rapport between Archie and Tristan is teasingly lighthearted. Bongiovanni’s artwork structures the GUIDE and creates an inviting atmosphere. 

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Cuts to the Quick

Although the guide is a useful tool for all readers, some elements may not be as quick or easy. This is especially true for readers who have never encountered someone who is non-binary. Many conflate gender identity, sex, and sexuality. Traditionally, society categorizes people as either male or female, believing this directly reflects biology. However, the resulting binary ignores trans and intersex identities, and it limits cis men’s and women’s identities. The oversimplification that results from the gender binary is rigid and harmful. A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS cannot and does not open all these discussions in depth. However, it takes an important step in drawing these, and other key ideas, to the reader’s attention.

Additionally, The GUIDE points out that language is itself a construct. It is a fluid and dynamic tool for describing the world. Just as the world changes, language changes, too. Many argue that they/them can only be plural. But, as Miriam-Webster puts it, “singular ‘they’ is old.” Ultimately, the comic focuses more on the human element than language itself. But Bongiovanni and Jimerson discuss the issues as neatly as possible. The comic is occasionally a little biting, especially for readers unfamiliar with non-binary identities. But the dynamic between Tristan and Archie relieves some tension and keeps readers interested.

Image courtesy of Limerence Press.

The Realities of Misgendering

Ultimately, Bongiovanni and Jimerson’s conversation about gender identities makes the subject real. Readers see, and hopefully empathize with, the pain Archie feels as they are repeatedly misgendered. Importantly, the comic points out that what may appear “too dramatic” to cisgender folks is very hard on non-binary people. Misgendering suggests that a person’s gender identity is not valid or that they are performing gender incorrectly. When misgendered, non-binary people may feel anything from annoyance to despair. The GUIDE takes care to validate the full range of responses. Swiftly and kindly, A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS reminds readers that other people’s identities matter.

Bongivoanni and Jimerson don’t just demand changes. They provide most of the necessary tools as well. Although there isn’t much on how to improve the workplace for non-binary employees, allies still get some good advice. Indeed, the pair provide ways for allies to put support into practice. A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS comes complete with tables and examples. It even includes practice sentences such as: “Hi I’m ____ and I use _____ pronouns, what about you?” Of course, the GUIDE does not expect you to instantly know everyone’s gender or to always get it right. Instead, it expects you to respect others and keep these tools in mind.

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One Remaining Question: Why?

One question in A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS goes unanswered: why do people identify as non-binary? It’s complicated. And, as Bongiovanni and Jimerson cheekily point out, it isn’t anyone’s business. Indeed, interrogating people about their identities isn’t appropriate. However, within the comic’s context, rejecting this question as nosy or ignorant is a missed opportunity. In addition, dismissing people’s curiosity might even scare them away.

There are many reasons someone might identify as non-binary. On a basic level, it is because the gender binary does not accurately represent how they identify. Non-binary people can be feminine, masculine, conforming, or not. But in their experience and expression of gender, neither end of the binary fits the bill. Some people want to perform different aspects of gender, using masculinity and femininity in creative ways. Others might find that gender is relatively meaningless. By explaining why someone might reject the gender binary, the GUIDE could have demonstrated the harmful limitations of binary logic.

Bongiovanni and Jimerson importantly underscore respect for others. The GUIDE succeeds in doing so with humor and honesty. However, the question “why?” may not be as intolerant as the comic suggests. Even non-binary people might want to know more about why the gender binary doesn’t work for everyone. Plus, Bongiovanni and Jimerson avoid discussing other non-binary and gender neutral pronouns, such as “ze/hir.” Discussing why someone identifies the way they do is a chance to challenge ideologies about gender and possibly include other pronouns. But adding this would certainly ruin the “quick” part of A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS.

Image courtesy of Limerence Press.

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Hopefully, A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS will encourage more diverse gender representation in comics. In addition, Bongiovanni and Jimerson’s work is a useful tool for educating others. The GUIDE is accessible and has the possibility of reaching wide audiences. It might even start some conversations that will improve public spaces for non-binary and trans people. In that light, A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS is an incredibly timely and important comic. 

Bongiovanni and Jimerson provide helpful tools to make language changes in your daily life. Even non-binary readers might learn something new from A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS. But, even if you’re an expert, you won’t want to miss this comic!

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