“Is this your annual check-in, Mom?”
I smiled. “Well, yes, I guess it is.”
I know using someone’s correct pronouns shows respect. So, I wanted to stay on top of Harry’s pronoun usage.
I first asked Harry about gender pronouns eight years ago. At that time, Harry was listed on Facebook as my daughter, with she/her pronouns. Soon after, Facebook added the gender-neutral pronoun “they.” And Harry simply became my child. The term nonbinary didn’t exist in relation to gender in 2013. But Harry hadn’t fit inside the box of specifically “he” or specifically “she” since toddlerhood. Harry chose “they” on Facebook because it was the only gender-neutral option at the time.
Nowadays, friends, family, and clients interchange all pronouns when referring to Harry. And I do the same. But a recent bio blurb Harry wrote used only “they.”
“Should I be using only “they” for you exclusively?”
“Mom, I just don’t care,” Harry told me, as they have many times. “How people refer to me has no bearing on how I feel about myself.”
But let me assure you that a lot of people do care. Their personal pronouns are just that – personal. They align with our gender identity. Using a person’s correct pronouns shows respect. Misgendering someone by using incorrect pronouns is a sign of disrespect.
Who Doesn’t Want to Be Respected?
If you think using correct pronouns doesn’t apply to you, please think again.
- Generation Z, those aged 18-24, will soon surpass millennials in the workforce. And one in six Gen Zers knows someone who uses they/them pronouns.
- Two percent of the world’s population has red hair. At least two percent is transgender, nonbinary or gender nonconforming.
So, if any of your colleagues, friends or family members have red hair, statistically speaking, chances are you already know someone who’s transgender or nonbinary, whether they’ve shared that with you or not. And surely you know someone 18-24. Don’t they deserve your respect?
Make safe spaces.
Maybe you’re confused or unsure about using gender-neutral pronouns. Maybe the whole subject intimidates you. I understand. I’ve been there. But all it takes is a little effort and practice. Share your pronouns with others in introductions. Include your pronouns to your email sign-off. Or add your pronouns next to your name in a virtual meeting. Because when you do you are making space for everyone to be themselves.
Every person’s gender is always valid. Even if you don’t understand it. In other words, using a person’s correct pronouns shows respect. Today, on International Pronouns Day and every day.