Recently, pronouns have become a topic of conversation. Many people now identify with pronouns other than she/her and he/him.
Some people have quickly adapted to others’ preferences by respectfully using their preferred pronouns. However, many others still have difficulty grasping the concept. Some purposely oppose anything other than the standard pronouns they automatically associate with a person based on physical appearance.
Ongoing efforts to normalize preferred pronouns include an increase in educators asking students for their preferred pronouns. Along with these efforts, many social media users now add their pronouns to their bios, right along with other identifying information we are accustomed to sharing, like name and age.
Both of these have helped to normalize stating your pronouns and not assuming what other people’s pronouns are. Although these efforts have been effective, controversy still remains an obstacle in the fight for respect of others’ identities.
For example, a Time article detailed the story of a student at Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana who experienced discrimination regarding his gender identity. The student’s orchestra teacher failed to respect his preferred pronouns and was forced to resign. As a result, this teacher filed a currently ongoing federal lawsuit against the school.
Even though society is slowly becoming more accepting of everyone’s identities, there are still many examples of discrimination similar to the one involving the Indiana teacher. Some people oppose it for religious reasons, while others simply only feel like referring to people with the pronouns they are most familiar with.
A blog post by director and animator Nina Paley explains one individual’s reasoning for rejecting preferred pronouns.
“Like most mammals, I can’t help but identify someone’s sex with +99% accuracy,” Paley writes.
Throughout the post, she expresses she feels referring to someone from a perception outside of your own denies reality.
There are many others like Paley who still do not agree with respecting and stating pronouns.
About one in five United States citizens know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun. Along with that statistic, only about half of this population says they would be somewhat or very comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns, as revealed by a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.
As seen in those statistics, it is becoming fairly common for people to identify with pronouns other than she/her and he/him. However, we still have much to accomplish before preferred pronouns are fully accepted and normalized.
The personal decision to identify with the pronouns you feel comfortable with should not matter to other people.
The simple act of using someone’s preferred pronouns can make a huge difference in their lives, especially when there are so many other people who may refuse to do that for them. We need to realize that although some people may not understand or agree with stating and using preferred pronouns, it is respectful and easy to do.
This controversy also seems to come from a lack of understanding of pronouns and the effect they have on a person’s identity. As a society, we need to put out more information about the topic to combat the lack of understanding leading to such ignorance.
Many people oppose those who use preferred pronouns because they feel it is silly or should not matter, but it does affect the person whose identity is being completely disregarded.
Imagine for a moment that while you feel most comfortable with she/her pronouns, one person keeps referring to you as he/him. This would most likely make you feel uncomfortable and question yourself. That is how those who are misgendered feel when someone disregards their preferred pronouns.
This is a small change that can have such a big impact on an individual.
At the end of the day, a person’s preferred pronouns do not affect anyone’s life but their own. Refusing to respect pronouns is just ignorant and rude to the person asking to be addressed the way they are most comfortable with.
We need to expand our knowledge on pronouns and start doing a better job of respecting every single person’s identity because it does matter.
For example, a 2018 study published by The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed over half of transgender male teens who were surveyed had attempted suicide in their lifetime. Another concerning statistic resulting from the study showed 29.9% of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide.
This is why it is so imperative that we respect an individual’s gender identity. Misgendering may be a joke to you, but it can have detrimental emotional effects on those who experience this cruel invalidation on a daily basis.