Pronouns. Everyone’s got them. International Pronouns Day only just passed on October 16th. But pronouns are more than just words that are used to refer to someone - especially to trans, non-binary, or other gender-queer/gender-questioning individuals. To us, our pronouns can be very important for our mental health and wellbeing. Before I begin, I will start by sharing by pronouns which are simply he/him/his. So, here are some tips, tricks, and general suggestions when it comes to not being a jerk when it comes to using someone’s pronouns!
Ask! — You can always ask someone their pronouns. It’s something good for all of us regardless of gender identity to get into the practice of! There is no one way to “look” transgender or nonbinary or any other identity. You can never truly tell what someone’s pronouns are going to be so just ask!
Share your own! — Asking someone for their pronouns can be kinda stressful, especially if you are shy or anxious. So, try to share your pronouns first! When you meet someone new, just tack your pronouns into the introduction. A good example of this would be “Hello, my name is James and my pronouns are he/him/his. What about yours?” This easily introduces you to the knew person and A) gives the other person your correct pronouns which come in handy, especially if you are trans-identifying and B) Gives the other person the opportunity to share their pronouns in response!
Use — There are so many types of pronouns out there! While at first it seems there are only three sets of pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs), but there really are so many more than that. Some people may accept two sets of pronouns. For example, a friend of yours may use she/they pronouns. This means they are comfortable with she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns. Some may use other pronouns still such as zi/zir/zim and even create their own pronouns based on how they feel which are often referred to as neopronouns. Some people still prefer no pronouns at all! This may cause them to just ask you to refer to them by name and only by name. If you are ever uncertain as to how to use someone’s pronouns just refer to step one and ask! The person you are speaking with would rather explain the proper use of their pronouns than have you misgender them.
Be Respectful! — It costs you absolutely zero cents for you to respect and use someone’s pronouns! It doesn’t matter if you don’t like them. It doesn’t matter if you think they are a “bad” person. You should always use the correct pronouns for a person regardless of how you feel about them. We don’t typically misgender “bad” cisgender people, so it is no different for trans or nonbinary folks.
Mistakes happen! — You will mess up someone’s pronouns. Its bound to happen. I myself a trans-masc/demi-boy individual have messed up someone else’s pronouns before. Don’t make a massive deal out of it. Some people prefer an apology for being misgendered and others do not. Apologize if you feel appropriate for the situation but the most important thing is to correct your mistake and then continue to use the correct pronouns for the person. Most people understand that mistakes happen and aren’t going to be overtly angry with you unless you’ve done it on purpose or blow the situation out of proportion by over-apologizing.
Using someones proper pronouns can be the highlight of their day and it takes no real effort to do so! Just be polite to others around you! You will make mistakes; it happens to everyone. Just quickly apologize and switch back to the correct pronouns. Hopefully these simple steps can get you started!
About the Author:
James Tinkler is a 21 year old college student living in Central Florida. He is a gay trans masc person, and he uses he/him pronouns. James is a psychology major and a humanities minor. He wants to be a therapist one day and help trans kids access medical care, and he loves Harry Potter, Bad Suns, and LGBTQ activism. He was Vice President of the LGBTQ group on his campus for a year, and will continue to keep activism close to his heart in everything he does.