Growing up, I was always told what my pronouns were; they were not something that I was able to choose. I never understood that there was this whole other world, it seemed, where I held the power about who I was, rather than other people. That was a crazy thought to me when I was younger; it always seemed as though other people’s opinions about myself were the most important, and I’m happy that as I’ve gotten older, that’s become the least of my worries. Although she/ her/ hers pronouns resonate with me, the first time I was ever asked what my preferred pronouns were in a conversation, I had to stop and think about it. That was the first time the question was asked of me in a way where I could choose what my own pronouns were, and I said, “She/ her or they/ them,” feeling like a very different person.
I’ve rarely talked about my pronouns because I don’t enjoy being put into boxes when it regards my identity. Rather than limiting myself to she/ her pronouns, I decided I wanted to go by they/ them as well. I identify as a queer woman who goes by, they/ them pronouns as well as she/ her pronouns because they/ them resonates with me simply as being a person. Nine times out of ten, people use my she/her pronouns, which are 100%, okay, but they/ them are also just as cool, and it’s really that simple.
Why you should respect people’s pronouns?
Respecting people’s pronouns is not hard to do, but it does show a lot about who you are. When you use someone’s correct pronouns, you are acknowledging them as who they are, respecting them, and you’re also contributing to a positive and safe environment for that person. It’s like using a person’s name correctly; some people prefer you call them a nickname rather than their full name, or a completely different name and that’s okay. It’s a form of respect, using a person’s preferred pronouns, just as it is using a person’s preferred name.
I find it a good practice to try to use they/ them pronouns in my vocabulary more often when I am unsure of what someone’s pronouns are. Once you know, use the ones they prefer always, but until then, it’s always nice to not assume someone’s pronouns.
I identify as a woman.
Sometimes when people find out, I go by they/them pronouns; they assume that means I do not identify as a woman… but I do. Pronouns are not indicative of a person’s gender, so just because sometimes I go by, they/ them pronouns do not mean I stopped identifying as a woman. It also does not mean I am non-binary. I have given this a lot of thought, and at the end of the day, I am a woman; I know what my gender is, and I know that my gender and my pronouns are separate.
If you find this a bit confusing, let me explain.
Gender is just completely made up. A bold statement, some think, but it truly is, gender is a social construct. The socially acceptable characteristics of men and women, including things like behaviors, characterized by gender are all made up. The idea that men cannot wear makeup, paint their nails, or wear dresses, is because we have been conditioned to believe that men must behave a certain way, and vice versa with women. Pronouns are words used to refer to people, and they are not an indicator of someone’s gender.
I am assigned female at birth and I identify as a woman, my pronouns are she/they. When people ask why I go by they/ them pronouns as well, I usually tell them they simply resonate with me as a person and that I’m happy to have people address me using either she or them pronouns, as long as I am not addressed using, he/ him pronouns.
A guide to pronouns.
A great resource for understanding pronouns and how to go about conversations regarding pronouns is mypronouns.org. They have scenarios you can read through about how to handle mistakes if you address someone by the wrong pronouns, as well as how to respectfully ask for someone’s preferred pronouns.
I think a great practice for normalizing preferred pronouns is to have them accessible for others to see. For instance, Instagram’s new feature to have pronouns shown on our profile is a great way to let others know what your pronouns are and in general to normalize this “newer” way of introducing ourselves in a world that seems to be a bit behind the times. Having your pronouns on your business cards or using them when you introduce yourself to someone new also sets the stage for others to feel more comfortable doing the same.
Remember that people go by other pronouns than only she/ he/ they, also known as neo-pronouns, and these are just as important and just as valid, even if they aren’t as widely used.
Check out more about neo-pronouns here:
Lastly, just be kind! Mistakes happen, and we are all learning along the way. Use resources to learn more and remember that using someone’s preferred pronouns is the only respectful way to refer to someone. It’s never funny to address someone by the incorrect pronouns, just like it’s not funny to purposefully call someone by the wrong name. Remember that if you would like to be addressed by the correct pronouns, so does everyone else!