Thursday 10 December 2020

What are your pronouns?

Hello friends and followers. Today I would like to talk to you about pronouns. I'm sure most of you know what a pronoun is but if you don't, lets have a quick lesson:

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. See the dictionary definitions below:

In short, a noun is a naming word and we use a pronoun to replace it sometimes in order that we don't keep repeating the noun and sounding silly! 

There are regular pronouns he/they/she/it and there are neo pronouns fae/xi/ze/ey etc. All of these are valid and are the decision of the person you are referring to. It's possible that you might be talking about a person who's pronouns you are unsure of - if you are unable to ascertain their pronouns by asking, go with neutral pronouns until such a time as you are corrected. 

Within society, we have ascribed pronouns to people dependent upon what genitals they have - I know, weird right?! We also tend to categorise people based on their visual appearance and also how they sound. No matter what you think, you can't actually tell a person's gender or pronouns by looking at them - even if they're naked when you're looking!

YOU get to decide your pronouns just how YOU get to decide your gender. 

My name is Kim and my pronouns are they/them.

Notice how I didn't say "preferred pronouns"? That's because my pronouns are not preferred. They just are. Some people will use multiple pronouns and have a preference for certain pronouns in certain situations but not me. My pronouns ARE they/them. No ifs ands or buts about it. There is no discussion or debate to be had. There is no wiggle room. 

There are some people who just LOVE to tell you that they/them cannot be used in the singular and to them I say "SHHHH!"

Adjusting to a person's CORRECT pronouns can be difficult. We have a lot of unlearning to do and lets face it, if someone asked you to tie your laces with "bunny ears" instead of "loop, swoop, pull" it would take you a lot longer to put your shoes on. However, the more you practice, the better you will get. Learning correct pronouns is a skill just like tying your shoelaces. 

So how do we normalise pronouns? How do we reduce harm to transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people? 

Introduce yourself with your pronouns and invite others to do the same:

Instead of: "Hi, my name is Kim, what is your name?" 
Try: "Hi, my name is Kim and I use they/them pronouns. What is your name and pronouns?

Sure, this takes longer to say but so what? If a person doesn't share their pronouns, don't pry. Default to neutral they/them until such a time as you are corrected. 

Add your pronouns to your email signature:

Correct misgendering where possible and safe:

If a transgender/GNC person is misgendered in the woods, can anyone hear it? YES. If you hear someone talk about me and they don't use they/them, correct them. It is far worse to misgender someone behind their backs than it is to their face.

If you happen to misgender me - whether I am present or not - correct yourself. Don't make a show of it. Don't cry about how you're so incredibly truly sorry. Don't lament at how awful a person you are - just correct yourself, resolve to do better and move on! 

"I saw Kim the other day and she... sorry, they were doing really well."

Practice out loud:

If we are meeting, talk about me out loud. Write what we're going to do in your diary/appointment book/Facebook status. Many people tend to narrate things in their heads - just switch to doing it out loud. 

"Today I think I'll suggest to Kim that we grab pizza for lunch. I know they really like pizza. I wonder how their partner is doing recently? I'm going to wear the blue scarf Kim bought for me, they have such great taste!"

Put post-its around your mirror/bedroom/home


Something that helps me to learn something new is to create a visual memory. I have a "mind palace" not unlike Sherlock Holmes. It is a visual bank where things are stored. I can usually go into my "mind palace" to retrieve things and make adjustments. Sometimes, I need to check in a few times to ensure the cleaner didn't reinstate something I had previously thrown out. 

Visualise opening your memory of me, take out the item that illustrates incorrect information, discard it and replace it with the new information. 

Learning something new takes time. We see when you put in the effort. Sometimes we might seemingly have a disproportionate response to being misgendered once but that's because you don't see what else has happened throughout our day and chances are, it's the 139873498723rd time someone has misgendered us and we are about sick of it. 

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