As humanity evolves and moves away from archaic social constructs, the way we relate to each other through speech evolves as well. Many of you that are reading this were raised to acknowledge “the two sexes”, male and female. That description of “biological sex” was always inaccurate and is just one of the many issues plaguing transgender individuals in the social sphere.
Today, we know that “Gender” and “Sex” are not the same things [Learn more about Sex and Gender plannedparenthood.org]. We are also changing the way we approach talking about gender. The most common pronouns, when addressing an individual, have always been She, Her, He, and Him. In 2020, there are over 100 widely recognized pronouns that individuals use, including: They, Them, Xe, Xim, Per, It, and many more.
Why is this important? Isn’t it just confusing things even more?
If an individual asks you to use their self-identified pronouns, they are asking for you to respect their personal identity. If someone refers to another individual using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, it can often lead to that individual feeling disrespected and can lead to mounting dysphoria, exclusion and alienation.
Yes, it can be confusing at first. These issues aren’t being taught in schools, so individuals are being forced to self-educate on them. If you are reading this blog post, then you are looking for information and that is a great start! You can see a great article and list of pronouns, and when and how to use them at: them.us.
Aren’t all these “Gender Neutral” pronouns just made up words?
In short, yes! That is what language is. As we evolve socially, new words and phrases are added to our ever growing vocabulary. Making a word “official” is as simple as it becoming widely used and having a commonly understood definition. If you start including gender neutral and respectful pronouns into your vocabulary, they are no longer made up! They now exist in your mind and in your common vocabulary.
In short, if you are unsure of a person’s pronouns, ask their name and self-identified pronouns at the same time! For example: “Hi! My name is Aria and I use She/Her pronouns! What’s your name and pronoun[s]?!”. It is that easy. It may seem cumbersome or awkward at first, but many things are until we have practiced them. If you would like to practice, there is a great website to help you get used to using the correct pronouns: practicewithpronouns.com.
How can you be an “Ally” to transgender individuals?
For those learning how to become a better ally to transgender and gender nonconforming people, I can offer a list of items to help:
1. Don’t tolerate disrespect
Whether it’s hurtful language, remarks or jokes, call it out if it’s inappropriate. Seek out other allies who will support you in this effort.
2. Respect pronouns
Not sure which pronouns someone uses? Just ask! Then use that pronoun and encourage others to do so. It’s okay if you make a mistake, just be sure to correct it and move on.
3. Be patient with those questioning their gender identity
A person who’s questioning their gender identity might shift back and forth as they find out what’s best for them. Be kind and respectful, this includes being respectful of their names, pronouns and bodies.
4. Don’t police public restrooms
Gender-variant people may not match the signs on restroom doors. If there are no all-gender bathrooms available, offer to accompany a trans person to the bathroom in a buddy system so they’re less vulnerable.
5. Listen to trans voices
Keep an open mind and heart to the experiences of trans people, they’re the experts on their own lives and one of the most important parts of being an ally is learning what it means to be transgender.
6. Don’t assume you can tell if someone is transgender
Transgender and non-binary people don’t all look a certain way and many may not appear to be trans or non-binary. Indeed, many trans and non-binary people live most of their lives with very few people knowing their status.
7. Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure and outing
If someone has shared their gender identity with you, don’t tell others. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but it can also have devastating consequences in a world that can be intolerant of gender differences.
8. Use gender-neutral language
By using terms like “hi guys” or addressing a group with “welcome ladies and gentlemen”, we assume genders and exclude people. Consider using gender inclusive language like “hi friends”, or “welcome folks” instead.
9. Keep it appropriate
Don’t ask trans folks about their genitals, surgical status or sex lives. If you wouldn’t ask a cisgender person, don’t ask a trans person either!
10. Don’t make it a joke
Avoid making jokes around introducing pronouns. For example, “My pronouns are OBVIOUSLY he/him.” Or “my pronouns are Lord Vader/Helicopter etc.”
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have learned something and if you have ANY questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter: @AriadneSatanas. For more information on pronouns, visit: mypronouns.org/
Over 40 Trans or Gender Nonconforming individuals were murdered in 2020 due to hateful Anti-trans violent perpetrators. The majority of these folks were Black trans women and people of color. See the full list: hrc.org
REST IN POWER!