Pride month has come to an end and it’s one of the most celebratory times of the year. Not only did it provide us with the chance to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, but a chance to focus and encourage further learning to make the world a more inclusive place. All community members of LGBTQI include their allies and supporters and family. Pride is not just a parade that happens once a year, it takes place in many cities and countries across the world at many different times. Pride began with upheaval as a riot in San Fransisco and later in New York City after patrons of the gay bar, The Stonewall Inn fought back from police raids and harassment. The community has come a ways from the Civil Rights Movement to the bright and beautiful display of the rainbow flag with all participants and supporters, and their families. It is important to understand that despite progressiveness, there is still a large level of exclusion occurring.
In recent years, it has become more common to be more intentional about the usage of pronouns as a means of being more affirming and inclusive. If you’re new to the concept, it can be a little confusing, but there’s no need to panic or reject the idea. I want to acknowledge that people have many differing views about acceptance of use of pronouns. I have seen many comments of LGBTQ+ material stating that pronouns are “pushing your own agenda down others throats” or “Corrupting our youth.” These statements are just insensitive. Yeah, yeah, I know that some think that the fact this is a, “sensitive topic”….. “shows how weak and adulterated America/our society has become.” It’s time to just read on for a moment and acknowledge that if you can do the following 3 things, we are off to a start: I respect people, I am interested in knowing what is going on in the world, and I understand that I cannot possibly know everything.
Keep reading to find out more about gender pronouns and what impact we can have by using them…
We need to make a few clarifications before we begin. There are a few:
Grammatically gendered words in language are common knowledge throughout the world. Many languages have grammatical gender expressions assigned to nouns (a person, a place, or a thing). Gendered words do not exist in the English language. Here are some examples of gendered words, neutral/natural/nueter, or genderless words, masquiline/femine words. Spanish: boy (el nino) girl (el nina); French Le and La with potential change in the word, German: der, des, das. The word will change based on the gender or nongender of the word. We have a way to use non-gendered words. Not such a new concept.
Gender expression? This is how you present yourself to the world. This could be aligned with or not aligned with your birth gender or gender identity
Gender Identity? This is an identity felt by a person internally of which gender they feel and express.
Take a look. This is where pronouns come in.
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are the words we use in place of nouns. Instead of referring to someone or something by name, we use pronouns as a substitute. They’re a very normal part of the English language and language worldwide, so you might be wondering what pronouns are and what’s the point of them.
There are a number of pronouns and combinations for use in our day-to-day lives. Some people will use she/her, others will use he/him and some may use they/them. Check out this chart for a full guide on pronouns and what they’re used for.
Why should we use pronouns?
Using pronouns is a simple and easy way to make our society a more affirming place. By taking someone’s pronouns into consideration, you are showing respect for their identity. And identity is important to everyone.
Gender is an important part of who we are and making assumptions about people’s gender based on their pronouns or outward expression can further perpetuate dysphoria and transphobia.
If you’re cisgender, this means that your gender identity aligns with the sex you were assigned at birth. In other words, it means you’ve probably never had to worry about your own pronouns before or how they make you feel when people use them. Incorporating pronouns into your language isn’t difficult, but using them could have a positive impact on the people around you. It is no different than someone changing their last name for preference or marriage. We just simply begin using their new name.
How will I know what a person’s pronouns are?
You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to figure out what someone’s gender pronouns are. The answer really is this simple… ASK THEM!
Part of opening up our language and being affirming of the LGBTQ+ community is leaving fear at the door and asking genuine questions. That’s how we learn. But, part of the learning process is that learning begins when we treat the inquiry with accurate respect. Some people joke that they want to identify as “a dog”, “lamp”, ect. These are just silly jokes that dismiss how people have been treated. You have to remember that not everyone’s is accepting
When you meet someone new, asking what pronouns they use is a way to show your affirmation of all identities . It shows you care about their feelings and want to ensure you’re addressing them correctly, something we should all be able to get on board with.
Here are some great ways to normalize pronoun use in your circles:
- Add your own pronouns to your bio on social media, regardless of your gender
- If you’re attending an event or using a name badge, add your pronouns
- When you introduce yourself to someone new, tell them your pronouns too
- Add your pronouns to your business cards or email signature
- Avoid jokes about how you identify if it is not a genuine identity for you. For instance, if you want to identify yourself as “a lamp”, we will just turn you off, unplug you, and drop you off at Goodwill.
So, why not try incorporating pronouns into your vocabulary? It is really not that out of the ordinary.