Putting your pronouns in your bio is not the revolutionary step you think it is

Hypervisibility on social media is just another way queer people are being pushed to perform their queerness

Sophie feels that the pressure to add pronouns to your bio is a result of performative activism.
Credit: 
Supplied by Sophie De Freitas
This article uses “Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+)" when referring to students with diverse experiences with gender and sexuality. While many of these labels are popular among those who self-identify, they are not universal. 
 
This pride month, I’ve had the privilege to actively reflect on what I want to advocate for within the LGBTQ2S+ community. 
 
As a white queer woman, I think it’s important to listen to the voices of those more marginalized than myself and take steps to fight for queer rights however I can. In this reflection, I’ve come to a conclusion—stop making a big deal out of pronouns. 
 
It shouldn’t be so difficult to be compassionate and call people what they want to be called. 
 
The pressure to perform your identity manifests in many ways. Through clothes, music, makeup, or a specific social media presence, there's never been more hypervisibility on sexuality and gender identity. 
 
The increased visibility of pronouns has provided a window into the pressure put upon queer youth in particular to maintain and perform a "queer" identity online. 
 
The use of alternative, fluid, or rapidly changing pronouns has thankfully become increasingly accepted. Instagram, for example, recently added a pronoun feature to their bio options, giving individuals the opportunity to put their pronouns on display. 
 
There is, however, a downside to the constant presence of and pressure to disclose pronouns. 
 
As any university student who actively uses Instagram will know, infographics—designed to quickly and aesthetically inform viewers about social justice movements—have become a staple of Instagram stories. 
 
After the addition of the pronouns feature to Instagram, there was an influx of postable infographics urging users to add their pronouns to their bio in order to express solidarity with the LGBTQ2S+ community and normalize the use of pronouns. The sentiment is valuable, and there are obvious benefits to the normalization of disclosing 
one’s pronouns. 
 
Non-binary or gender nonconforming individuals are able to let others know they use the more neutral they/them pronouns, as opposed to she/her or he/him pronouns. I would like to acknowledge that not every non-binary or gender nonconforming person chooses these pronouns.
 
However, mass pressure on social media to disclose pronouns, even among well-meaning youth on Instagram, also has a downside. Posting touting messages like “put your pronouns in your bio to express support for queer people!” encourages a false narrative that only queer people have or use pronouns, which is categorically untrue. 
 
Everyone has pronouns. You have pronouns. That conservative f—ker who comments “there are only two genders” on Hunter Schafer’s Instagram has pronouns.
 
Your parents have pronouns, even if they claim to be "confused" by the whole thing. Coworkers who claim that they "respect pronouns," but posit that they/them pronouns are grammatically incorrect, also have pronouns. 
 
Pronouns aren't only for queer people. We’re just rising to the simple task of calling people what they want to be called. 
 
Secondly, putting pronouns in your bio doesn’t necessarily help queer people. It does help to normalize gender-neutral pronouns like they/them, but unfortunately, it also reinforces the narrative that the LGBTQ2S+ community is obsessed over arguably mundane issues. 
 
While normalizing gender-neutral pronouns is a worthy cause, there are other pressing things on the proverbial queer agenda—conversion camps, everyday homophobia, abuse of young gay men and women by the Catholic churchstate-sanctioned violence against queer people, suicide rates among queer youth, violence against transgender people, specifically Black transgender people, or violence against sex workers, queer or otherwise. 
 
If you want to help queer people, educate yourself. Take a queer theory course—Queen’s has an excellent one. Sign petitions, donate to charities, and stop supporting homophobic companies. 
 
Don’t act like putting your pronouns in your bio is the next big step towards queer liberation and safety. It’s not. It’s basic human decency.
 
My last grievance with the pressure to put your pronouns in your bio is the removal of autonomy. As a queer person who's fairly open online, there are still parts of my identity I choose to keep private. I don’t necessarily want people knowing what pronouns I use. 
 
I have no problem with people knowing or even guessing my pronouns. I will give my pronouns when asked and will always respect others’ pronouns. However, this fixation on hypervisibility on social media is just another way queer people are being pushed to perform their queerness—online and in real life. 
 
People don’t have a right to access my pronouns, personhood, or gender identity just because I have a girlfriend. 
 
It’s not simply the act of putting pronouns in your bio that I reject, but the pressure put upon queer people to do so as part of their identity, and the pressure put on straight people to do so as an act of solidarity. 
 
You are under no obligation to make your pronouns public or visible. It doesn't make you a bad person. It doesn't make you not an ally. It does, however, make you a bad person if you don’t respect others' pronouns and how they want to be addressed—full stop. 
 
I reject the guilt I feel for not having my pronouns in my bio. That information is for me, and while I’m happy to give it out to anyone who wants to ask, it’s something I reserve the right to keep offline.
 
It’s also important to reiterate that if you do put your pronouns in your bio, whether it be because you want to express solidarity, or you’re concerned about being misgendered, or literally just feel like doing it—there's nothing wrong with that. Go for it! But don't pressure others to do the same, especially queer people, who are already viewed as having to live up to their own queerness.
 
Sophie De Freitas is a fourth-year English student. 

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