Neither Hir nor Their by Kelly Haworth
I want to try on pronouns like you try on a new shirt. I want to see which one fits me, feels smooth on my skin. Which one brings out the color of my eyes. 

You would love Erin; they are such a cool person.

I wriggle into a blue tank top that just barely hides my binder. With a tap along the bottom seam, the luminescent threads emit a flash of color. Good—the batteries are still working.

Did you see what Erin did with zer hair? It’s a lovely shade of purple.

I yank black boots over small feet, pulling the zipper up with a satisfying rrrrhhhhhhh.

I love Erin’s confidence. Hir approachability. 

I pluck a metallic sharpie off my desk, examining the nametag sticker I’m about to slap on my chest.

My hand hesitates.

I don’t expect any weird looks. Not with best-friend Zoe by my side. Not at Turbulence’s Pride Singles Night.

But something’s snagged a loose thread in my chest, and each flick of my wrist is pulling it taught. 

My Pronouns Are
They / Their
I Am Interested In
All Genders!

The sticker is on my chest before I can change my mind, but I slip the sharpie into my boot, just in case.

“Erin! Your hair is purple! When did you do that!” Zoe shrieks as she runs up to me outside Club Turbulence, and she envelops me in a hug, lifting me straight off the ground with barely any effort. I laugh into her wavy black hair as her hug squeezes worry out of my bones. 

I’m back on my feet and I breathe in until the binder stretches tight, and with the oxygen comes the first vestiges of excitement. Dancing. Debauchery. Even if not with Zoe, with other cuties. That last thought sours my mouth. It’s not what I want, but we’ve been friends too long to ever hope for something more.

“I dyed it last night,” I tell her. She squeals as she runs fingers through it, sending shivers through my skull, down my spine. 

“You’ve done a marvelous job. It is so you.”

I scrunch my nose in thanks, and we drift to the end of a growing line of soon-to-be patrons, past light-up shoes and black light nail polish and lots of glow sticks. I see stickers with he’s and she’s, with they’s. One sticker with “Xe/Xyr,” and I smile up at xem, xyr short blue hair spiked, silver barbells poking out of the dimples of xyr cheeks. Most of the people in line wrote that they’re interested in guys or girls. A few say “friends.” Xyr sticker says “enbies” with the “i” dotted with a star. 

Zoe hums with delight as we reach the end of the line. “I can’t wait to dance.” 

“Me either.” I shimmy my hips and twiddle my fingers. She laughs, exuding radiance, and it’s not just the glitter on her cheeks. There’s something different about the air between us, crackling with possibility, if I can trust it enough to act.

The beat of dance remixes pulses through the Club and vibrates in my chest; lights swirl in blues and greens and pinks. The dance floor holds a sea of dancers, nametags illuminated by black light flashing past fog machine haze. Zoe approaches me with drinks in hand. 

My drink is bubbly and fruity, a mild liquor mixed with soda and syrup that fizzes in my mouth and tingles down my throat. A giggle bubbles out of me. 

Zoe plays with the straw of her drink with her tongue. “The bartender, oh dearie, he is so hot.”

Disappointment twists my gut at her words, but as the song changes, the renewed beat tugs at me. The crowd dances with their arms raised, bodies moving in bobbing waves like the surface of the ocean. I want to dive in, get submerged.

I gulp down my drink and the glass clinks against the counter. “Let’s dance.”

I find the button on the hem of my shirt, and light up with a scattering of shooting stars. Zoe and I meet eyes. Her lipstick is deep pink under the black lights, a parted oh as she watches me. The electricity of that look zaps straight to my core.

We slip into the crowd, the rush of sound, the smell of sweat and sweet liquor surrounding us. The music urges movement in my hips and arms before seeping into my veins and making my heart pound. My dancing is heat and passion among bright white teeth within glow-lip smiles, neon stripes and blinking lights. 

Soon I’m scanning tags. Interested in women. Men. Guys and girls. Anyone. Women and enbies. Glowing blue hair catches my attention and the cutie from the line holds out xyr hand. 

“Hey, I’m Onyx.” 

“I’m Erin.” I love how xyr pronouns match xyr name, and I take Onyx’s hand with a hitch of breath as xe slips xyr other hand around my waist. Xe leans in close as the music starts to flow through us.

“Your shirt is amazing,” xe says, pulling me to xyr, and for several blissful moments we dance within the pulsing and the smiles. 

I love it—or maybe I should love it more. Xyr body feels good against me. But not right.

I notice Zoe dancing by herself off to the side, smiling at the people around her, with strain in her squared shoulders. I excuse myself from Onyx and saunter up to her.

“Hey babe, wanna dance?”

She laughs and holds out both hands, but when I take them, she spins me around and pushes me back into the crowd. “The point was to meet cuties!” 

I listen to her, like usual, and with Onyx reabsorbed by the crowd, I find other connections. One guy with body paint stars who’s too close, trying to kiss me too soon. One girl with long hair and white shirt glowing, who runs her fingers through my hair and makes me feel all tingly and light but then disappears. 

I grab glasses of water from the bar—yes, the bartender is hot, a tank top clinging to his pecs and abs—and there’s Zoe, at the edge of the dance floor, moving her hips to the beat within sleek, glittering arms. Her partner is broad-shouldered and tall with a vinyl corset cinching their waist tight, dark pants clinging to muscular legs, and high-heeled knee-high boots. My jaw hangs open. They exude the sort of androgyny I yearn for. And Zoe’s clinging to them like she’s found a buoy in the water. 

I return to the bar counter, sip water, and breathe in salt and fog before diving back in. I try to let the beat take me again, flow through me and thrum up my spine like the shooting stars across the fibers of my shirt, but I’m off-kilter. Incomplete. 

“Hey babe, wanna dance?”

I turn toward Zoe’s warm smile. When my fingertips brush her arm, energy zaps through me. The song’s momentum increases and we gravitate together, two stars reuniting within a crowded galaxy, twirling closer until she’s pulling me to her and our hips are moving in sync. 

“I thought we were finding other cuties,” I say with her so warm against me, my body tight and aching with excitement at having her so close.

“Something was missing,” she says, her dark eyes slipping to my shirt, to my lips. “I noticed you watching me and that tall guy. What they’re missing is what you have.”

Something in my head is clicking into place as I watch her lips move, her pout between words. Her sensuality is vibrating against my skin with the beat buzzing through me.

“What is that?”

“They have style, but I didn’t see them shape it and help shop for it, like I have with you. They have moves, but I don’t know how hard they’ve fought to be who they are, like you.”

I run my tongue against my teeth, stunned and breathless. We’ve stopped dancing, our hands on each other’s skin.

“They…” I whisper, too quiet for her to hear over the music. “They don’t.”

“Erin—” Zoe starts, but I cut her off with a kiss.

Her arms envelop me and she kisses me back, her tart lipstick delighting my tongue and her sweat-slick skin tingling my fingertips. After years of friendship, this change is scary. But I have taken her hand and I lead her off the dance floor, feeling light as air. Glittering like stardust. 

I pull the sharpie from my boot, and tug at my shirt until I can see what I’m doing. 

My Pronouns Are
██ Ey / ██ Eir
I Am Interested In
██████! ZOE!!

She runs her hands across my sparkling chest. “Your pronouns.” Her voice is delicate. “Ey. Em. Eir. Emself?”

I relax against her with how right it all feels. 

“Yeah. I think I’ll give them a try.”

Kelly Haworth has way too active an imagination, so she channels it into writing. Kelly is genderfluid and pansexual, and honestly doesn’t know if she’ll ever write an allo-cishet couple again. When not working at a genetics lab or staying up too late writing, she can be found wrangling her two toddlers, working on cosplay, or curled up on the couch with a good TV show or book. You can learn more at kellyhaworth.com, or contact her on twitter or facebook.