In our society, not everyone is comfortable in their bodies and gender identities. To help those affected, our Western society has created gender pronouns. Even though most of the people that are affected by misused pronouns are apart of the LGBTQI+ community, it can happen to anyone.
What is a gender pronoun?
A gender pronoun is how a person wants to refer to their gender. The form of your pronouns are seen as your “preferred pronouns”, or the pronouns that a person chooses to use for themselves. Personally I am a cisgender female who refers to myself as she, her, hers.
Not every person feels that they belong to the gender that they were born with. For example, a transgendered person is one whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to the conventional notions of male or female gender in many cases seeing themselves as the opposite gender. Along with those who feel that they do not belong to either gender, who are often referred to as gender non-binary; which is an umbrella term for those who fluctuate between both genders or simply refuses gender altogether.
As millennials, we are taught to believe that the idea of gender pronouns is something new and started by our generation. However, in many civilizations before our time, those who do not belong to a specific gender identity, or the opposite gender have been seen in many cultures outside of our own for many years. In the past, people whose gender identities differed from the norm were often separated from society, and lived in a safe space set aside by their society.
Many of the identity issues fall under the umbrella of the LGBTQI+ community but it effects everyone. However, any person can be affected by the use of proper pronouns. In most cases a cisgender woman would feel uncomfortable or may be offended if referred to as he, him, or his; while a cisgender man may not like the fact that he is referred to as she, her, hers. It is important to realize that even though we do not have this issues everyday, there may be someone around us who does. Every single person is impacted by genders and deserves to have their personal identity recognized and respected.
On the other hand of personal identity issues come the issue where a child is born as intersex. Intersex is the term used for a child who is born with the reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit typical definitions of male and female. In many cases the children who are born as intersex, may feel that they belong to no gender, or simply belong to both as their reproductive and sexual anatomy shows. During childhood, parents are oftentimes responsible for making a decision that their child will have to live with, which is their gender. Most doctors recommend surgery to correct the child’s “defects,” leaving the choice of gender to the family. Some of the children affected by this may later on have issues whether it is conforming to their biological gender, or feeling comfortable in their body. At this point, it is the intersex person’s choice as to their pronouns.
Finally, a common issue amongst the population comes the misused gender pronouns which may scare some away from using them in the first place. To be honest, it is okay to slip up; at one point or another you may misrecognize someone or just simply forget. But if you do so make it a point to correct yourself or simply ask if you are unsure. If you see someone being misgendered, try not to ignore it. You want to be an ally and make the area safe for everyone so if you can, please try and not only watch yourself but those around you so you can make it a safe place for everyone. You may not always know someone’s gender pronoun by their appearance so it is important to realize this. It is not only a sign of respect, but it avoids alienation, dysphoria, invalidation, etc. We have the privilege of living in a time where gender pronouns are used even if it is different from the gender they appear; so please do not disrespect those around you, and become an ally for everyone around you by respecting everyone and their gender identities individually.
Gender identity is something that every single person is plagued with. Whether you are a cisgender person, intersex, transgender or a non-conforming or gender-queer person gender identities affect you. At this point in 2016, we are working as a culture to make gender identities more known and understood but we are also working to take away the negative stigma that is brought to those who are negatively affected. Our society needs to recognize these people and help them and make our society a safe place for them to share themselves freely. To make our society a safer and more open space, it would be a good idea to make the idea of gender pronouns better known and understood. The more positive stigma gender pronouns and identities have, the less negativity it will receive from the public. Most people that find pronouns an issue are just ignorant to gender identity issues. Personally I think that if people are better educated on gender identity and personal pronouns it would better us as a people, where it would no longer be seen as “weird” or “strange”, and will become the norm.
Common Gender Pronouns
Cisgender female: she, her, hers
Cisgender male: he, him, his
Gender Neutral [singular]: they, them, that
Gender Neutral [Ze]: Ze [pronounced: “zee”], hir [pronounced “here”], hirself [pronounced: “here-self”]
To help those who may be confused or don’t know some of the words used above:
Cisgender: denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex
Transgender: a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender
Gender pronoun: a pronoun associated with a particular grammatical gender, such as masculine, feminine, or neuter, or with a social or biological gender (or sex), i.e., male or female
LGBTQI+: stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex, but is often an umbrella term for any sexual orientations or gender identities
Non-binary: a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity
Gender-neutral: suitable for, applicable to, or common to both male and female genders.
Gender fluid: person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities. Their gender can also vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances.
Gender-Queer: denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders
Agender: a term which can be literally translated as 'without gender'. It can be seen either as a non-binary gender identity or as a statement of not having a gender identity. People who identify as agender may describe themselves as one or more of the following: Genderless or lacking gender.
Intersex: a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.