A question I constantly get, and received a few times from the panel is, “How can I show you I am supportive?”
The quickest answer I always give is “Use your pronouns.”
This is easy to say, but why is this my advice? How can you do it? Pronouns open up a very complex can of worms about how they work, and how they are an expression of gender. So let’s get into it!
Disclaimer: I am a cisgender man. Although I cross-dress (wear clothes not from the “men’s” department, but that’s a blog for another day), I do not experience the hardship my transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming siblings experience. The knowledge I am sharing today comes from my time as an ally, listening to people actually affected.
Why is my advice always, “use your pronouns”?
Using your pronouns is simple, quick, and reliable. As humans, there is one thing we always do when we meet new people…introduce ourselves with our name! If we add pronouns to this, we are doing a few things:
- It shows transgender, gender nonconforming, and all other folx in the LGBTQ+ community that you see us, you hear us, and you support us.
- It tells others that you are an LGBTQ+ ally, helping us be seen.
- It sparks conversation/ Maybe someone has never experienced an introduction with pronouns and now you have the opportunity to explain to them the importance and can encourage and allow them to be an ally too!
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are nouns that refer to people without using a name. We, I, us, and you are all examples of pronouns. The pronouns we are talking about here, though, are she/he/they/zi/etc.
A Quick Guide to Identifying Terms
- Sexuality - refers to attraction toward others
- Sex Assigned at Birth - refers to what the doctor puts on your birth certificate based on your genitalia
- Gender Identity - the gender you experience internally
- Gender Expression - how you express yourself (can be based on the cultural gender norms society has created)
- Pronouns - the noun that “fits best” with your gender identity and expression; this is determined only by you
In a future post, I am going to explore gender identity and expression, but this is a basic intro to start to pull them apart as separate things.
For more information on pronouns, I strongly recommend going to pronouns.org.
How YOU Can Get Used to Pronouns
Now that you understand pronouns (hopefully), let’s look at is how you can implement their use into your life.
Using someone’s preferred pronouns will take some work, but I promise you it is worth it! There are a few different things you can do to practice using pronouns:
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns, and make it part of your everyday life so their presence gets easier. (“My name is Maddux, my pronouns are he/him.”)
- Think about this person and use their pronouns even when you’re thinking about them. The more you practice, the easier it will be when you see this person.
- Just try! Using a new language takes time, but with practice and a kind heart, you can do it! Yes, you will mess up, but don’t get deterred by perfection.
What do I do if I mess up?
When you say “Ya, she and I hung out yesterday,” and you realize their pronouns are “they,” or if someone interrupts you and says, “they.” Simply say, “Oh, sorry, they hung out with me yesterday.” Don’t make it a big deal, quickly correct your mistake, and keep the conversation flowing.
When we make a huge deal and put the entire conversation on hold, we not only make it about ourselves (which it is NOT), but we also take away from the conversation we were just having.
As long as you are trying, mistakes are ok if they are being reduced. But don’t use the “it’s hard” excuse forever, ‘cus if you actually are trying, it will get easier and you will get it right!
Want to take your inclusive language one step further? Try using gender-inclusive language all the time!!
Using pronouns is great, but how we address groups and talk about professions is very binary, or stuck using only two genders.
Now that you can address a group, how about when you talk about the chair of a board or of a firefighter? Well, it’s as simple as I just demonstrated — remove the gender. Below is a helpful chart that shows some common titles, and their gender-inclusive counterparts.