Pronouns are used in place of a proper noun (i.e. a person’s name). We use these pronouns daily without even realising, to refer to someone without using their name.
An example of this would be “What’s Rebecca doing this weekend? She hasn’t updated her calendar for weeks.” She is the pronoun in this sentence.
This moves us onto WHY pronouns are so important for people. In English, the most commonly used pronouns are he/she when specifically referring to someone’s gender. However, for queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender people those particular pronouns may not always be applicable, and using them can create discomfort, stress, and anxiety.
A study conducted by the University of Austin has shown that in transgender youth, using correct pronouns and names reduces depression and suicide risks. Some people may wonder why something like this may upset a person, so let’s break this down.
Think about your pronouns.
they’re likely going to be he/she. Now imagine someone calling you one you don’t think of yourself as, someone making an assumption about your gender based on your name, or your appearance and addressing you incorrectly – not just once but over and over again, even after you’ve tried to correct them.
Honouring someone’s pronouns acknowledges their humanity, and who they are. Transgender and non-binary people already suffer disproportionate rates of homelessness and are at risk of violence. Taking the time to practice someone’s pronouns and respecting their identity can make a huge difference in that person’s day and even life.
Let’s have a look at a guide of the most commonly used pronouns (please keep in mind that there are others, so it’s always better to ask and listen to the person when you ask what their pronouns are!)
You may have seen recently that social media platforms have started enabling people to add their pronouns to their bio, as well as multiple businesses adding them to their email signatures. With this, you may have seen ‘she/they’ or ‘he/they’ appear. This is because that person uses “rolling pronouns”.
Whilst there are lots of reasons this could be, sometimes gender-fluid individuals may use different pronouns on different days depending on how they feel about their identity. Due to the fact that gender is a spectrum, and people can feel like they are multiple or no genders, rolling pronouns potentially could feel more comfortable than just using one.
I for one, also use rolling pronouns. I guess writing this has enabled me to finally be at peace with my pronouns and kind of, express them to the world. My name is Kally, and my pronouns are She/They (wow that feels good to finally say and read that out loud!).
Ultimately, we want everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin and respected. Some days I wake up, look in the mirror and see complete discomfort at identifying as “she”, it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t make me feel comfortable. But I also don’t want to be referred to as “he”, which is why ‘They’ is so important. It can symbolise all genders or no gender, and that’s why for me, it fits most days.
Mistakes like this happen, we’re all human and no one is perfect! Just be sure to apologise to the person, re-educate yourself and move on. If this mistake happens in front of a group of people, it may be beneficial to apologise privately.