My first language was Vietnamese. Vietnamese has one third-person pronoun nó, and it can be used in the plural as well. Maybe because of this, third-person gender-neutral pronouns roll off my tongue fairly naturally in English too.
In the last three or four years, if I have ever identified my pronouns, I have specified "they/them". I'm not always consistent with identifying this, sometimes because I feel it's not important in a particular space or with a particular audience. That's because for me, providing my pronouns is an active political expression of my gender.
I don't think my gender is something that is just internal to me. It also exists as a relationship with other people.
When I identify a certain way (that is, when I actively engage in the political act of identifying myself), it's me requesting to be seen and thought of a certain way.
When others to whom I've identified myself are able to shift their view, to see me the way I've requested, it shows to me that they have a great deal of respect for my social and political being. This goes double when they overcome a linguistic gap for it. It's honestly so meaningful.
To be clear, I don't read it as malicious or disrespectful when people don't, when they slip up or forget. I read it as normal. In fact, I consider it to be abnormal, as in requiring specific effort, to hear my request and hold it within them and practice it in the real world. I don't expect every person to do this, especially not strangers.
But. Given that I am engaged with work focused on social change, and surround myself with people also deeply committed to that work, I know that when I do engage in this act of self-identification, I do it with people consciously undergoing their own processes of remoulding. These are people who recognize, as I do for myself, that we hold backwards ideas from this old world. People who recognize that if we are bringing about a new world, a necessary part is to challenge old ways of thinking at every turn. People who know that the internal is decisive!
So my request to these people, my comrades and kasamas, is simple. If you want to understand better why I use "they" pronouns, why I consider it a political act, and why I feel it's important for you to understand: ASK ME. I would never be upset at someone like that for asking why.
It's OK if you skipped through this. The last part is the most important. Please, if there is something you don't understand, put it on the table and ask me.