Something that has been bugging me recently is people’s reluctance to acknowledge and adjust to pronouns other than the binary ‘he/his’ and ‘she/her’. Respecting someone’s pronouns is so important and by deliberately choosing to ignore them you are invalidating their gender identity. I completely understand that having to re-adjust to new pronouns for a family member/close friend can be pretty difficult and hard to get used to, however, if that person has specifically requested that you use different pronouns then you should try your hardest to respect that. It’s fine if you slip up sometimes, as long as you apologise and correct yourself.
It’s so important to educate people and be open to answering their questions when it comes down to the topics of gender identity and pronouns. The chances are that the people you’re gearing yourself up to come out to or asking to use different pronouns might not be completely informed about LGBTQ+ issues, specifically understanding gender identity. This is just an assumption of course – just because someone doesn’t have an understanding doesn’t mean they won’t do their best to be supportive of you.
It’d be cool if one day humans didn’t immediately make assumptions about people’s gender identity upon meeting them, right? Then if they were unsure about someone’s gender, they’d just straight up ask them what their name and preferred pronouns were and there’d be nothing to worry about. That’s way too simple though.
At the beginning of my second year of University one of my seminar tutors went around the room immediately and asked for everyone’s name and preferred pronouns – this was unexpected but great. It seems ridiculous that I have to call it ‘unexpected’ because it should be something automatic by now, but it’s not. Anyway, he made it clear that he didn’t want to make any assumptions about anyone’s gender identity and I thought that was really great.
Not everyone is cis! So not making the assumption that everyone around you identifies as male or female, and accepting that actually people may have a range of gender variant identities (non-binary, genderqueer, bigender etc) or not identify with a gender at all is so important. Thinking like this is simply a way of erasing trans and gender variant identities and enforcing a strict and oppressive gender binary that many people don’t actually identify with at all.
People learn new words every single day and I feel like picking up new pronouns should be just as easy, if not easier – given that you know how important their use is to your significant other/friend/family member. Using pronouns other than ‘he/his’ and ‘she/her’ is still not talked about as much as it should be at this point, so I can understand why people may initially struggle to remember to use them. Especially as people are so caught up in the false idea that your biological sex and gender are the same thing. Therefore if they’ve always known you as ‘female’ (and know you were assigned biologically female at birth), then it is second nature for them to use female pronouns. This is why education is key, because actually biological sex and gender identity are not synonymous and they don’t always match up. So you should never assume someone’s pronouns based on your perception of what their gender is, or should be.
Asking people to use different pronouns is never easy. Trans people who choose to use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘they/them’ or trans people who choose to use an opposite binary pronoun such as ‘he/his/she/her’ are both likely to experience reluctance at first. However, identifying with pronouns of a binary gender, although still difficult, may be easier for people to adjust to quickly and take more seriously. Because you know, (oppressive) binary means legitimate, right? Gender neutral pronouns, however, have a lack of mainstream representation/visibility and so still their use can be unheard of for some – this really shouldn’t be the case. So someone’s continuing reluctance to use your preferred ‘they/them’ pronouns might just be because they simply cannot think outside of the binary. It seems close mindedness makes it okay to ridicule or belittle any pronoun that is not in keeping with the binary.
In order to validate the identities of trans and gender variant people there needs to be much more awareness of and education about the use of different pronouns. Pronouns are a simple right and are crucial in a person’s identity and feeling comfortable with themselves. It makes me mad that someone would go out of their way to deliberate use the wrong pronouns, or refuse to use the correct ones despite knowing the importance of them within peoples lives.
If you are a cisgender person who has the day to day privilege of ‘passing’ (the whole idea of passing is problematic – but that’s a rant for another time) as your identified gender and having the correct pronouns used, try for a second to imagine how much it would get to you and invalidate your gender identity if someone chose to use the incorrect pronouns to address you all the time. Pronouns shouldn’t simply be ‘preferred’ they should be a given – and always respected.