International Pronouns Day

Happy International Pronouns Day, friends! For those who are unfamiliar, the event takes place every third Wednesday in October with the intention of making sharing, learning, and respecting pronouns as commonplace. 

As a fair bit of disclosure, I’m 37 years old and the practice of asking/sharing pronouns is something I only started doing in the last several years. Growing up in Hawaii, it was just not part of my languaging (although looking back, I wish it was). It would have probably spared me from many uncomfortable situations where I was misgendered.

People make assumptions about my identity often based on the way I look. Some people think I’m trans. Some think I’m a butch/dyke. Some think I’m non-binary. 

Some don’t make assumptions and ask me when we first meet which pronouns I use. This was a practice that started only after working in the trans adult industry. At parties, performers would come up to me and ask me my pronouns. I would do the same and ask, even if I knew based on the pronouns I saw them use on social media. I never thought much about it then, but I realized later what a powerful gift they were sharing with me – the ability to be myself and be represented authentically. 

The other day I was misgendered by a worker at a store. When this happens, I try to just ignore it because I want the uncomfortable interaction to end as quickly as possible. But in this case, the individual misgendered me, had a big reaction about misgendering me, and then corrected themself. I then had to do emotional labor and reassure the person it was okay they misgendered me. 

For International Pronouns Day, I encourage you to practice asking for people’s pronouns and sharing your own. If this is new for you, it may feel a bit uncomfortable and you have some inner resistance about doing it. Try to push through that discomfort and find empathy for how stressful it is to be transgender or non-binary having to navigate social situations where you might be misgendered – don’t think just about how uncomfortable it is, but think about how potentially being misgendered can also trigger dysmorphia or endanger someone’s safety. 

A bit of kindness and empathy goes a long way, I promise. So let’s practice together.

A few basic terms to know 

Gender Identity: an internal understanding of our gender, based on what we understand about gender from our culture. 

Examples: man, woman, nonbinary, transgender, agender, demigender, genderqueer, pangender

Gender Expression: how we present ourselves to the outside world through clothing, hairstyles, our voice, mannerisms, etc. 

**Often how we present is related to our gender identity, but not always.

Examples: masculine, feminine, androgynous

Biological Sex: a medical determination based on primary and secondary sex characteristics, hormones, and chromosomes. 

Examples: female, intersex, male

To note, each of the above categories is different than sexual orientation and are independent of one another. 

Source: University of Connecticut Rainbow Center

The reason why asking for pronouns is important is because even if you know any of the above identities about a person, you do not necessarily know the others. The practice of asking someone their pronouns allows them to answer for themselves versus you making an assumption about them. 

While it is unnecessary to ask someone about their identity (or feel entitled to know about their identity), it is appropriate to ask which pronouns they prefer when in reference to them. 

If you are cisgender or very binary in terms of gender expression, you may not have ever experienced someone misgendering you. For many trans and non-binary folx, being misgendered can be a very stressful and/or trauamtic experience for them. Additionally, the act of telling others their pronouns may be a source of stress or anxiety. 

For this reason, particularly if you are cis or binary in terms of gender expression, I suggest you make the effort to be proactive in offering your pronouns and asking the person theirs. This helps normalize the practice without making trans and non-binary folx do extra emotional labor in conversations. 

For example:

“Hi, I’m [name]. I use [pronouns]. How about you?”

If you forget to ask in the beginning of conversation, it’s okay! It can easily addressed by something simple like: 

“Sorry, I forgot to ask this earlier. I use [prounouns] – how about you?” 

Here, I’ll start:

I’m Kristel. My pronouns are she/they. I’m flexible about my pronouns – it’s more about context and intention for me. Sometimes will even use he/him if I’m talking to friends. What are your pronouns?

Okay, your turn.

Published On: October 21, 2020Categories: Featured Post, LifestyleTags: ,

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