Addressing Pronouns in the LGBTQ+ Community
Breaking Through Staff
Photo from Breaking Through
It is now the year 2023 and there are at least 68 different genders an individual can choose to identify with. Many people would argue that there are only two genders, female and male, however gender and sex have two very different definitions, and there are people who are also intersex.
Sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans, primarily associated with physical and psychological features including chromosomes, hormone levels, gene expression, etc. Gender on the other hand refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities that influence the way people perceive themselves. Many people that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community have their own unique pronouns they use to identify themselves. The most commonly used pronouns are she/her and he/him, but there are many more pronouns someone can choose to identify with.
While pronouns are becoming more prominent in today's modern society, there are many people who do not understand pronouns, find them to be extremely pointless, or just think they do not exist.
Your personal pronouns are words that are used in place of specific people, places or things. When the words “me, myself and I” are used, that is when you are describing yourself however, “she, he, and they” are third-person singular pronouns you want others to use when referring to you. They/them is another common one besides the one listed above that many people prefer.
Many people argue that they/them is only plural, but Merrimack-Webster announced that “they” can be used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary, making the word singular as well. These pronouns, amongst many others, are used to describe their gender identity, rather than describe and go along with what they were assigned at birth. There are people who do not like pronouns and simply would rather be called their name.
So how does a person appropriately ask about another’s pronoun without making them uncomfortable or causing an issue?
The best way would be to include your pronouns in your introduction, right after you state your name. For example, if I was speaking to someone new, I would say “Hi, I am Ken. My pronouns are they/them.” Now the question is, do I include that I am non-binary so they can understand why I use they/them or do we leave it at that?
I feel as though you include whatever makes you feel comfortable, and if going into detail does the opposite, then refrain from it. Some people, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, do not feel comfortable just disclosing their pronouns while meeting, but want to be properly gendered. This is because even though we have progressed and evolved as a society, many people get confused or disrespect what the person wants their pronouns to be.
By introducing yourself along with your pronouns, it may make others feel more open and comfortable to disclose their pronouns. It lets them know that this is a safe space and they will not be judged for their gender identity.
If someone decides to disclose their pronouns to you, the best thing to do is respect it and do your best to use the correct pronouns. You are absolutely not going to get it right every single time, especially if it is new to you, but as long as you are trying then that is all that really matters. As a non-binary person myself, I sometimes still struggle with other’s pronouns, and surprisingly, even my own. Every time I misgender myself, I just correct myself and use the right ones I identify with.
Most people are not going to be upset or offended if you accidentally use the wrong pronouns like myself, and if you do use the wrong ones, just correct yourself. We are all human so we are bound to make mistakes and mess up sometimes, but it is all about what you do after to fix it and rectify the issue.
By continuing to use improper pronouns on purpose, you are showing that they are not valid and almost as if their pronouns should not exist. Purposely misgendering someone can affect their mental health and could possibly be considered harassment.
A big reason many people are misgendered is because of their appearance, their voice, or even their name. We have grown up in a society where there are only two genders— men and women. Everything has been associated with a gender, whether it be color, clothing, music, tv, cars, etc. Just because someone is female presenting, meaning they appear to be a woman, does not equal or justify what they identify as.
I myself am female presenting, however I identify outside of being a woman, but many people refer to me as so because of how I look and speak. No one has to look like what they choose to identify with and that is the beauty and fluidity of gender identity.
Remember that sex and gender carry two separate meanings, and if you’re ever unsure of what to call someone, just ask them. Mistakes will be made and that is okay as long as you educate yourself and do your best at trying.