In this game we weathered old showgirls have to sell ourselves to sell seats, giving interviews, waffling away on the radio, and generally generating promotional content (such as this very article) when we have an upcoming performance. There are protocols in place, one mustn’t swear on the BBC, one shouldn’t leave a journalist waiting in Pret for 45 minutes, and one should send one’s press releases out in clear, concise, proper English. Here we get to the cut of the jib…


I prefer the pronoun “they”, with the understanding that it refers to me as a person who recognises themselves to be neither a man or a woman, but both simultaneously. This is pretty straightforward in practice, EG “Did you see La JJ on TheGayUK? Their article was so enjoyably informative! How do they do it?” As such I am using singular “they” in my press releases, to the chagrin of certain writers who feel it is incorrect English and therefore either decline to write about my new hit show GEIST (which is at the Arcola July 2nd & 3rd btw) or else just use the pronoun they feel best suits me, which is actually quite rude when you think about it.

Perfectly reasonable people, people who are allied to queer and trans causes, will say, “I’m not opposed to using ‘they’ in principle, it’s just that it’s not grammatically correct.”

But aren’t we already using it on the daily? Don’t we say things like, “Everybody wants to think that they’re cute”? That’s singular “they” right there babes! Technically we should be saying, “Everybody wants to think that he or she is cute”, but obviously we don’t because it’s such a cumbersome mouthful. Yet even that unwieldy sentence is a recent modification, made by the Feminist impulse to rectify a sexist bias in the English language. Why should every writer, “Pick up his pen and set about his work”? Exactly – it’s bulls*it.

Victorian grammarians set “he” as the universal English pronoun, though a quick Google will tell you from around 1300, and through the Middle Ages, singular “they” was common. Chaucer uses it as does Shakey themselves, as in The Comedy of Errors, when Antipholus says, “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me as if I were their well-acquainted friend.” Shakespeare chooses to use “they” instead of “his”, just as Jane Austen does countless times, 200 or so years later. Whilst we’re at it why is nobody up in arms over the loss of formal/informal distinctions in English? Why aren’t we upset that we can no longer choose to speak intimately by employing, “Thou art” (in place of “You are”) without coming off as a Fantasy Fiction dork?

That’s because language evolves babe, for better or worse, even The Washington Post managed to get their heads around “they” when it was pulled into their style guide last year. People start sentences with “And” and “But” all over the shop with little furore arising, though until recently the very suggestion of it sent editors apoplectic. Likewise, when a writer asks if they can interview me, I don’t reply tartly, “No, but you may conduct an interview with me,” do I? (Well not unless I’ve had a double shot in my skinny latte at least). An insistence on alleged grammatical righteousness is actually a determination to prop up the prejudices built into the English language and shrug it off as out of one’s control. By dismissing singular “they” what you’re actually saying is, “I’d really love to help you feel like you have a place in the world, but sadly this copy of Grammar for Dummies from 1909 just won’t let me, sad face emoji.”

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Third gendered, non-binary, trans, gender fluid and transdrogynous people have tried out several new pronouns over the past few decades. From the lumpy “Zir” which was all the rage a decade ago, to Justin Vivian Bond’s famous “V”, and Theo Addams’ playful “tree”. All of those choices are beautiful and valid, but “they” works best for me. It’s already in the language we use, it expresses the multiplicity which many of us gender outlaws experience, and remarkably it’s 100% gluten free. Try it, you might like it! And share it with your lover – they may get a kick out of it too.

Catch La JohnJoseph in GEIST at the Arcola Theatre 2nd and 3rd July at 8 pm. For a chance to win a pair of tickets to the show, simply enter your name below. The winner will be announced on the 30th June. Good Luck.

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Terms of Competition

  1. You have until the 30th June 2016 9:00 AM
  2. Entries made after this time will not be counted.
  3. Winner must be over 18 and reside in the UK.
  4. Offer is not-transferrable and no cash equivalent will be given.
  5. Entry is free of charge.
  6. Winners will be notified by email from TheGayUK by the 30th June 2016 by 2:00 PM.
  7. Winners will have one day to claim their prize. Afterwards, a new winner shall be drawn and previous claims will be forfeit.
  8. All entries will be added to TheGayUK and TheGayShop mailing list which you can unsubscribe from at any time.
  9. The prize is tickets only. Winners must make their own travel arrangements.
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