Gender pronouns may seem like a tiny aspect of our everyday communication, but they play a crucial role in affirming the identity of individuals. Using someone's preferred pronoun is an act of respect, validation, and acceptance of their gender identity. It is also essential for creating a safer and more inclusive environment for people of all gender identities. Let this blog post be a guide for those who want to understand and respect gender pronouns better. Read on to learn more!
First things first: What are pronouns?
Pronouns are words used to refer to someone in the third person (he, she, they, them, etc.). In the heterosexual and cisgender world, pronouns are usually based on the binary gender (male or female) assigned at birth. However, in the queer community, pronoun usage is more diverse and fluid! Transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals may use pronouns that reflect their gender identity. Using someone's preferred pronouns shows respect for their gender identity and demonstrates a genuine acknowledgment of their identity as a whole. It's crucial to understand the importance of this simple gesture.
Asking for someone's pronouns
Asking for someone's pronouns may seem intimidating because it isn’t something done in the heterosexual world, but it is essential in creating a culture of respect and inclusivity! However, it is also essential to ask respectfully. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you can say your name followed by your own pronouns. Oftentimes, they will respond with their name and pronouns as well, but you can follow up with “How should I refer to you?” or simply “What are your pronouns?”
You can also let others know you would like to be referred to in the same way. Be mindful that someone’s pronouns may not match their appearance or gender assigned at birth, and it is not appropriate to assume someone’s pronouns based on those factors.
Misgendering and correcting mistakes
Misgendering refers to using the wrong pronoun to refer to someone. It can be unintentional, but it can still invalidate someone's gender identity. Picture this: You're starting a new job and someone you just met refers to you using the wrong pronouns. It's natural to assume they don't know, but you can't help feeling a little hurt they didn't ask or just assumed. After all, you want your colleagues to respect your identity the same as you would.
Correcting your mistakes is important, but doing it respectfully is crucial. Apologize, correct yourself, and move on. Avoid making it a big deal or putting the burden on the person to reassure or educate you. If you make a mistake repeatedly, it may be helpful to practice using pronouns on a daily basis or seek guidance from a trusted person.
Why respecting pronouns matters
Respecting gender pronouns is a matter of respecting an individual's identity and expression. It indicates that their identity is valid and acknowledged, which creates a space for belonging and acceptance. Inclusivity is essential in creating a safe and healthy environment for all individuals, and respecting gender pronouns is a crucial step in achieving this.
Understanding and being respectful of pronouns helps create a more inclusive environment that celebrates the diverse identities in our world. Gender identity is an individual construct, making it important for all of us—friends, family, coworkers—to consider and become comfortable with different pronouns. As we continue to learn and grow in our understanding of gender identity and expression, let us also work towards creating a culture where everyone feels seen, heard, and accepted!
Last Updated: April 2023
This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call the Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 988.
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