Why normalizing pronoun sharing is a simple but important step

Cisgender people have work to do

Everyone deserves to have their pronouns respected.
Photo: 

Including your personal pronouns in your social media bios, your email sign-offs, and your introductions is a small change that cisgender people can—and should—be making. Why? It’s the simplest step toward normalizing pronoun sharing. 

Pronouns are the labels people refer to you by when they don’t use your name. She/her, they/them, and he/him are just a few examples of personal pronouns used across the spectrum of gender identity. Each person has personal pronouns they feel best apply to them—even if you haven’t given your pronouns much thought, you likely have a set you identify with. Pronoun sharing refers to the practice of making your pronouns readily available to others, whether by including which pronouns you use in your resume or noting them when you introduce yourself to someone new.

Pronoun sharing isn’t a new idea—it’s something the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming communities have, for years, been advocating for. It’s important to note that this article only scratches the surface of the nuances of this issue, and as a cis woman, I can’t speak to the experiences of transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people. To learn more about this topic from people who can speak to those experiences, you can find a myriad of resources created by the trans and nonbinary communities.

While pronoun sharing is a small adjustment for cis people, not everyone is comfortable with stating their pronouns publicly, and just because someone decides to share their pronouns doesn’t mean they’re entitled to someone else’s. It’s vital to understand that for cis people, there isn’t close to the same risk associated with being open about their gender identity that can apply to transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people.

The foundation of ensuring correct pronoun usage is respect: it’s respectful to make the effort to identify people by their correct pronouns. Though everyone deserves to have their pronouns respected, it’s the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming communities who are disproportionately impacted by misgendering.

The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 52 per cent of trans and nonbinary youth in the US have seriously considered death by suicide. Trans and nonbinary youth who reported having their personal pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who didn’t have their pronouns respected.

It’s clear that there’s more to be done when it comes to normalizing pronoun sharing—and that effort must come from cis people.

Normalizing pronoun sharing acts to deconstruct the concept that someone’s gender identity can be assumed just by looking at them. Gender isn’t defined by the clothes someone wears, their makeup, or how they style their hair, and assigning pronouns based on appearance contributes to harmful and outdated perceptions of gender and too often results in misgendering. Even if it’s not the intention, making generalizations about what men, women, and gender non-conforming people ‘should’ look like perpetuates traditional, non-productive gender norms we must be working to move away from and contributes to anti-trans and -nonbinary rhetoric.

Cis people have privilege that allows us the opportunity to work to normalize pronoun sharing without the risks trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folks face. It’s essential we use that privilege to cultivate an environment where trans and nonbinary people don’t feel alienated when they share their personal pronouns—everyone should be doing it.

Establish your pronouns in whatever settings you feel comfortable—it’s such a small change, but incorporating pronoun sharing into everyday life is an important first step toward creating a safe space where everyone has their pronouns respected.

Tags: 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.