‘Killers Of The Flower Moon’ Star Lily Gladstone Says Her Use Of Non-Binary Pronouns “Is Partly A Way Of Decolonizing Gender For Myself”
According to Killers of the Flower Moon star Lily Gladstone, her use of she/they pronouns is based not in a personal sense of transgenderism, but rather her desire to ‘decolonize’ the concept of gender through the lens of her own Native American heritage.
Gladstone, who portrayed historical Osage Indian Murders survivor Mollie Kyle in Martin Scorsese’s latest cinematic tour de force, spoke to the topic of her non-standard pronoun usage during a January 2024 interview with People.
Asked about her preferences – which she proudly lists in her own Twitter bio – by the outlet’s Eric Andersson, Gladstone explained, “I remember being 9 years old and just being a little disheartened, seeing how often a lot of my boy cousins were misgendered because they wore their hair long.”
“It happens to a lot of kids, I think, especially Native boys leaving a community where long hair is celebrated [and then] just kind of getting teased for it,” the actress, who herself descends from the Blackfeet and Nez Perce tribes, detailed. “So I remember back then being like, everybody should just be they.”
Providing further insight into her ancestral reasoning behind her pronoun choices, Gladstone added, “And in most Native languages, most Indigenous languages, Blackfeet included, there are no gendered pronouns. There is no he/she, there’s only they.”
“It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but there’ve been several times in my life where I’ve been speaking to a northern Cheyenne-first language speaker [or another] Indigenous-first language speaker where they’ll accidentally misgender you when they’re talking to you,” said the Reservation Dogs actress. “And then they’ll get embarrassed about it, but it’s because they’ve learned English later.”
Gladstone continued, “So Blackfeet, we don’t have gendered pronouns, but our gender is implied in our name. But even that’s not binary.”
Noting that her grandfather’s Blackfeet name translated roughly into ‘Iron Woman’, she then recalled, “He had a name that had a woman’s name in it. I’d never met my grandfather. I wouldn’t say that he was nonbinary in gender, but he was given a woman’s name because he kind of carried himself, I guess, the way that women who have that name do.”
“And there were lots of women historically and still now who are given men’s names. They fulfill more of a man’s role in society as far as being provider, warrior, those sort of things,” the actress told her host. “So, yeah, my pronoun use is partly a way of decolonizing gender for myself.”
“[It’s a way of] embracing that when I’m in a group of ladies, I know that I’m a little bit different,” she elaborated. “When I’m in a group of men, I don’t feel like a man. I don’t feel [masculine] at all. I feel probably more feminine when I’m around other men.”
“In ceremony, a lot of times where you sit in the circle is a gendered thing,” Gladstone ultimately concluded. “I happen to sit in circles that are very embracing of all of our people. And I’ve seen people change where they sit in the circle based upon how they’re feeling that day.”