Updated: Nov 3, 2021
October 20th marks Pronoun day, Queer Co would like to use this occasion to shed some light on common misconceptions and questions regarding personal pronouns and their link to gender identity.
So why should you be mindful of the pronouns people are to be addressed by? Respecting people’s pronouns comes down to respecting them as people, “It's a matter of respect and politeness, if someone told you their name you wouldn’t use a different one either” says Callisto. Echo adds “by acknowledging someone’s pronouns you are acknowledging someone’s identity”.
But why is it important for everyone, and not just people that have to feel as other, to make clear to others what pronouns they use? Firstly, as Echo says “You are contributing to creating a safe space where people feel comfortable stating their pronouns”. Callisto also makes clear that it is a matter of normalisation “It can get tiresome and alienating to continuously have to set yourself apart by stating your pronouns”. Secondly, when we assume people their pronouns on the way they look, we are enforcing the stereotypes and gender norms imposed on us and are thus actively cohering to the gender binary. “There is this idea that the way you present is inherently reflective of the pronouns you use, but that isn't necessarily the case” as Mo says.
But what to do when you aren’t certain how to address someone and you don’t want to use the wrong pronouns? Firstly, it can help to introduce yourself with your own pronouns, this might incentivise someone to do the same. If you are uncertain still you can always use their name, or as Echo says “It works to refer to people by they/them unless or until they specify to be referred to otherwise”. Most importantly, don’t be too afraid to just ask, most of the time people only value you asking and this reduces some of the taboo surrounding conversations about gender.
Lastly, some important reminders ought to be brought up. The pronouns you use don’t have to say anything about your gender identity, it’s okay to experiment and change your pronouns over time. Callisto says “Pronouns are like shoes, sometimes you get rid of your old shoes because they got really uncomfortable so then you find new shoes and then they aren’t that great either so you try on another pair”. Some people feel comfortable with multiple different pronouns, however as Mo says “In most cases that doesn’t mean that you get to pick only one of the pronouns to use, a good way to go about that is just switching up the pronouns”. Likewise it doesn’t work to have fixed ideas of what someone who uses certains pronouns or have a certain gender identity looks like, as Echo says “People who use they/them pronouns are often expected to look androgynous, but you don’t owe anyone androgyny”.
Claire (she/her) on behalf of the Queer Collective
Callisto Jones (them/them & she/her)
Echo Mulder (they/them)
Mo Hofstede (he/him & they/them)