October 16th was International Pronoun Day.
Using correct pronouns is an act of basic respect. Pronouns aren't "preferred", and they're not optional - they are the pronouns that a person uses to best reflect their identity at that point in time. Pronouns, like gender and sexuality, are fluid, and can change over time as someone's understanding of who they are (as well as their personal growth and development) is reflected in the pronouns they use.
Pronouns are super important to get right, and although it can take a while to get someone's pronouns down pat, the effort is worth the comfort and acceptance of all involved. If you intentionally misgender someone to make a point or when you're angry at them then you are, in fact, a prick.
It's especially important for parents, family members, and partners to respect the pronouns a person uses. The validation received from loved ones accepting your identity can have a markedly positive effect on the mental health of a person, especially our tamariki, rangatahi, and our baby queers!
Mx is a title used when Ms, Mr, Mrs, Miss, and Master are not appropriate or comfortable. Typically pronounced "mix", it is used by all genders, including cis people who do not want to be referred to by their gender, or have their gender known off the bat.
These are able to be used interchangeably and within the comfort level of whoever is using them. Pronouns aren't for others to decide - they are deeply personal and not up for debate!
How do I use them?
Here's a neat table from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville
How can I be an ally?
- Normalising asking people's pronouns and advising of your own in everyday interactions is a great way to be an ally. "Hi, I'm Xavier and my pronouns are they/them, what about you?". This can also help to avoid asking someone to out themselves if they're not in a place where they feel comfortable doing. Advising your own pronouns first gives space for the other person to choose what they are comfortable disclosing to a new person.
- Pop your pronouns in your email signature and social media bios, wear a badge with your pronouns at events, and incorporate them into your dialogue without theatrics.
- If you mess up, thank the person who corrects you and move on. Being flustered and excessively apologetic does little to resolve the situation, and acts to only make the other person uncomfortable. You can do it.
- Learn! Until my gender identity became more fluid I He, She, and They'd everyone. Now I've got the hang of different pronouns and how to use them in a sentence because I practiced.
- Make up some gender neutral greetings. We love the memes. "Sup fuckers" is one of my most favoured, least professional ones currently.
- Correct others who misgender. This one is simple. Be an ally even when there's no visibly queer people around. The best time to show up for someone is when they're not there. You never know who is listening who you might be standing up for.
- Don't assume! Someone could be the dudeliest dude you've ever seen and rock a solid she/her pronoun.
Here's a video of some rad genderqueer peeps
The more you try, the easier it gets, and the more valued you'll make the genderqueer, trans, and baby queers around you feel - and isn't that a nice thought?
International Pronoun Day in 2020 falls on the 21st October.