Celebrated on October 16th this year, International Pronouns Day seeks to make sharing and respecting everyone’s pronouns commonplace. This year will be the second year of its recognition, and I for one am excited to see how it will be celebrated across the world. As someone who uses they/them pronouns, I was excited when I heard about this day being celebrated for the first time last year.
Pronouns have become more commonly discussed in recent years with the rise in visibility of transgender and intersex issues, and the growing awareness of the fact that people may not identify with the gender assigned at birth, or with any gender at all. For intersex people, it can be even more difficult, as their identity is often hidden from them at birth. Awareness days like International Pronouns Day are incredibly important, as they offer a way for people like me to find our community and allies and know we’re not alone. They also provide an opportunity for allies to learn about the various identities and how to best support us.
A new roommate recently moved into the house I’ve been staying at while in the city this summer, and they also use they/them pronouns. When the house leader introduced them in the group chat, he misgendered them. Knowing their pronouns, I sent a message to the group saying what pronouns they use. The next day, my new roommate and I were studying in the kitchen and they thanked me for correcting the pronouns in the chat. They went on to explain that in their last house, everyone knew what pronouns they used, but didn’t make an effort to respect them, so it was really nice that at least some effort would be made in their new home. As another they/them pronoun user, I knew how big of a deal this was. It’s easy for people who want to be allies to acknowledge pronouns in the moment without truly changing their day-to-day behavior.
Support and allyship should go beyond just a day. I’ve noticed more people including pronouns in their email signatures or offering their pronouns upon introduction- practices I am personally fond of because I’m often assumed to be a woman when people meet me. As a society, we have been trained to assign people a gender and set of pronouns based on how they look, but these assumptions are often wrong. Even when I do make it clear upon introduction that I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns, I still get misgendered (called the wrong pronouns). I wear my pronoun pin most of the time to try and remind people, and it’s piqued the interest of people I’ve interacted with as I go about my daily life, but allies need to do more. Putting pronouns in your email signature and introducing yourself with your pronouns aren’t the only ways to show your support. Some other ways you can support your friends are:
- Wearing pronoun pins
- Including your pronouns on your business card or name tag
- Add your pronouns to your social media profile
- When someone misgenders someone, correct them. It can be as simple as ‘Oh, he uses he/him pronouns actually.’
- Educate yourself on how to use pronouns you may be unfamiliar with and what neopronouns are- such as xe/xem/xir and zhe/hir/hirs.
- Practice using these pronouns in context or using apps like this one.
It is okay to mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. We live in a binary, gendered society, so even just breaking the language barriers of talking about a person in a non gendered way can be challenging. In some languages, it is impossible. I remember the first time I met someone who used they/them/theirs pronouns - I was terrified of screwing up and making them feel invalidated. I’d never really heard of people using they/them for an identified singular individual before. And here I am using they/them pronouns now myself! Remember that next time you mess up - it just takes time to learn and get comfortable with the language.
International Pronouns Day has its own website that has tons of resources. Among the resources it offers are videos that explain how to respectfully ask for and offer pronouns, how to correct yourself when you mess up, and how to learn to use pronouns you may be unfamiliar with.
Be an ally today and moving forward by adding your pronouns to your social media profiles.
Step 1: Go to settings
Step 2: Go to profile settings
Step 3: Select ‘edit profile’ or similar
Step 4: Select ‘edit description’ or similar
Step 5: Add what pronouns you use to the beginning of your description
Step 6: Save!
Step 7: Screenshot and share with us!
Published on October 15, 2019 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization