What are Pronouns?
A pronoun is a word used to refer to a person without using their name. Some common ones you’ve probably heard of include He and She, but there are many gender neutral pronouns including They, Xe, Ey, Ze, and Fae.
Why do They Matter?
A shift in pronouns is often an important part of a transgender person’s transition. Some transgender people don’t want to transition medically (take hormones or have surgery). For many people, being referred to with the right name and pronouns is enough to feel comfortable and affirmed.
When someone uses the incorrect pronoun for a trans person, it’s referred to as misgendering. Even if it’s an accident, it can still be a very uncomfortable experience for the person being misgendered. For many trans people, it is a trigger for gender dysphoria, which is a feeling of extreme discomfort or distress related to incongruence of their identity with their sex assigned at birth or other’s perceptions based on that assignment.
What if I Mess Up?
Trans people are pretty tough cookies. As much as it sucks, it’s okay to make mistakes, especially when you’re first adjusting to using a new pronoun. What matters is that you are trying. If you use the wrong pronoun, it’s important to not make a big deal about it; just quickly correct yourself and move on. Apologising too much can just make the situation worse for everyone and draw more attention than necessary.
How Do I Know Which Pronoun to Use?
Ask. It’s important not to assume the pronoun someone uses based on the way they look or sound. A good practice is to ask everyone their pronouns when you meet them for the first time. It can be as easy as:
“Hi, my name is _____. My pronouns are _____. What are yours?”
Is There Some Way I Can Practice Unfamiliar Pronouns?
Minus 18 has created a pronoun game where you can practice using a variety of pronouns. Getting the hang of new pronouns will take time and it can be frustrating at first, but it will mean the world to the trans people you meet.
For me, being referred to by the right pronouns indicates that the person I am speaking to respects me and my identity. I am able to enjoy my life more fully when I’m not worrying about being misgendered. Before I began to medically transition, my pronouns were even more important, as they were one of the only things that I was able to change while I waited to start the medical process. Now that I am further into my transition, most people correctly assume that my pronouns are he/him, but when people ask me my pronouns instead of assuming, it builds trust and comfort between the new person and I.
Okay, Give Me the Short Version Please?
- Pronouns are an important part of a trans person’s transition and identity
- If you use the wrong pronouns, quickly correct yourself and move on. Don’t apologise profusely and make a big deal out of it.
- Make a habit of asking people their pronouns and sharing your own.
- Respect someone’s pronouns, regardless of the way look or behave
- Pronouns take time to get right- just keep practicing!
Any questions, comments or queries? Leave them below!