Find out how a short little word can go a long way in a person's gender-affirming journey
Whether we realize it or not, each and every day, we use gendered and gender-neutral pronouns. “He will be meet me at 6”, “she loves her full body massager”, “they said they would try Pulse out”- these are all examples of pronouns.
Singular pronouns, in most languages, are closely tied to gender. But for many people, including but not limited to transgender, gender-fluid, and non-binary people, this means that they might use different pronouns than were assigned to them at birth.
When the wrong pronoun is used to refer to a person, this is known as misgendering. It can be a triggering or challenging experience for a person, especially if they have experienced gender dysphoria or discrimination based on their gender identity in the past.
That’s why it’s important to take a beat and always ask people their pronouns, even if you think you know it, respect people’s pronouns when you find them out, and, if in doubt, simply use a gender-neutral they.
Genitals ≠ Gender
Remember that a person’s physical appearance or gender expression might not match what you think their pronouns should be. For example, a masculine-presenting person is no more likely to use he/him/his pronouns than anyone else. Never make assumptions about people’s pronouns, and, when in doubt, simply ask! The first time might be awkward but we promise you won’t regret that you asked.
To understand how they work in practice better, here’s a quick lowdown on gendered and non-gendered pronouns and their usage
He/him/his is thought of as the masculine singular pronoun and is given to AMAB (assigned male at birth) people.
She/her/hers is the feminine singular pronoun and is used for AFAB (assigned female at birth) people.
They/them/their in the singular are often used as gender-neutral pronouns. They are used widely when we don’t know the gender or identity of a person; for example, “someone new is starting at work today, they will be sitting over there.”
As noted above, they/them/their is also useful if you don’t know someone’s pronouns yet. However, it’s always best to simply ask what pronouns people use and go from there, wherever possible. Making it common practice to ask everyone their pronouns makes sure you never unintentionally misgender anyone.
Pronouns and toys, it doesn’t need to be an either/or decision. Dudes can use full body massager and your friend can be she/they. Many people use combinations of pronouns, such as she/they, he/they, or he/she/they, or any variation on that. If that’s the case, use that person’s pronouns equally between their choices, rather than choosing one and sticking to it.
Neopronouns refer to any set of singular third-person pronouns that are not officially recognized in the language they are used in. They are often created for the purpose of being a gender-neutral pronoun set, wanting to avoid confusion between singular and plural they, or to express something specific about their gender identity.
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Examples date back to the 17th Century when ‘a’ and ‘ou’ were both recorded by William H. Marshall as gender-neutral pronouns in two separate instances. Today, there are dozens of different forms of neopronouns, all created to better suit a person’s gender identity and expression.
If you feel comfortable, disclosing your pronouns publicly is a great way to break down some of the barriers many societies still have around pronouns. The more openly we declare our pronouns, the less likely it is for people to be misgendered. It also means that, as we normalize disclosing pronouns, people from marginalized genders are less likely to receive discrimination for doing the same.
Of course, there’s no pressure to disclose your pronouns before you feel comfortable, but if you feel like you want to, add them to your social media profiles, email sign-offs, verbal introductions, and any other times you introduce yourself. Own yourself and your pronouns. The more, the merrier!
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