Today I am so pleased to welcome J.L. Merrow to Joyfully Jay. She has come to talk to us about her latest release, Out!, a novel in the Shamwell Tales series. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Beyond the Binary

Hi, I’m J.L. Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here as part of the Out! blog tour.

Today I’d like to talk about personal pronouns for those of us who don’t fall neatly into the gender binary.

I’m going to say upfront that I’m not myself genderqueer, nor am I even remotely an expert on this subject, and will be more than happy to be corrected on anything I’ve got wrong.

Gender Queer FlagBut with a nonbinary character in Out! who uses gender-neutral pronouns, and gender-neutral folk such as Ruby Rose becoming more prominent in public life, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the research I did on the subject of pronouns.

If someone is genderqueer/nonbinary*, obviously he and she aren’t appropriate, but what are the correct English pronouns to use?

I was quite surprised by the number of alternatives people have come up with. Ones I’ve seen used in practice include: (instead of, say, he, him, his)
– Zie, hir, hir
– Xe, xem, xyr

There are, however, many more, including:
– Ne, nem, nir
– Ve, ver, vis
– Ey, em, eir

For a fuller list, see:

Just how likely are these innovative pronouns to be adopted, though?

Brace yourselves, here’s the science bit: While English is, and always has been, a constantly evolving language, there’s evidence that it’s much harder for syntactic function words, such as pronouns, to find a way in than it is for, say, a new noun like “blog” or “selfie.” And the very fact that there are so many possible variations makes it harder for them to find a foothold.

But do we even need them? It’s often said English doesn’t have gender-neutral singular pronouns. But in fact, the use of “they” to indicate a single person of indeterminate gender dates back centuries:

“A person can’t help their birth.”— W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)

“I would have every body marry if they can do it properly.”— Austen, Mansfield Park (1814)

“‘Tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear the speech.”— Shakespeare, Hamlet (1599)

I actually think the Hamlet one’s debatable, since “they” could refer to mothers, plural, but you can’t argue with this next one (mostly because you’ll be too busy trying to work out what the heck zie’s on about):

“And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,
They wol come up . . .”
—Chaucer, The Pardoner’s Prologue (c. 1395)

“They” as a gender-neutral pronoun has a lot of advantages, chief of which is that everyone already knows how to pronounce it, how to spell it and how to use it. People are comfortable with it (some more so when they realise we’ve been using it singularly for centuries).

However, it may not be everyone’s cup of non-binary tea.  So when you meet someone with non-normative gender, the best way to work out which pronouns you should use for them is probably this:

Just ask them.

*Although there’s a lot of overlap between the terms genderqueer and non binary, they’re not synonymous. Some people who identify as one will not identify as the other, and the Pride flags—illustrated here—are different. Nonbinary is generally seen to have fewer political connotations.


Out! A Novel In The Shamwell TalesWhen the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with

Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Warning: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.


JL MerrowJL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at:, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at


Prizes! I’m offering a prize of an ebook of the winner’s choice from my backlist to one lucky commenter at EVERY stop on the tour, plus a grand prize of a signed paperback copy of Played!, the second Shamwell Tale, which was the first one to feature Patrick from Out! I’m happy to ship worldwide, and I’ll throw in some small goodies as well. The giveaway closes February 1st. 

Good luck!

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