Pronouns? They Matter.
– Cameron Airen
Every year, third October is observed as the INTERNATIONAL PRONOUNS DAY. It began in 2018 by a group of individuals as an independent project, with an aim to “make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.”
What is a pronoun?
“Wait, it’s just a pronoun? It’s okay if someone gets it wrong..” No it’s not. That is where we tend to go wrong.
Pronouns are not just a grammatical aspect of the language we use, but are highly integral to our identities. A person’s identity is equally significant to them even if it doesn’t go with the societal norms. The people from the non-binary spectrum are explicitly affected by the usage of incorrect pronouns because it disregards and invalidates their identity.
Your identity is your right. It’s basic human tendency to expect people to respect us as we are, which also makes it decent human nature to address someone in a way which isn’t offensive.
And how to do that, is by asking people their pronouns if you don’t know of it already.
To make the internet a highly inclusive space, it is highly suggested that people add their pronouns in their descriptions, so that they’re not misgendered. Why it is more important for cis-gender people to do this, is because it creates a safer space for the transgendered people, as it reassures them that they can freely talk about pronouns, and they won’t be judges for it!
“Should I tell them I don’t go by that pronoun?”
Go ahead; This is exactly how you can stop people from misgendering you!
Assuming someone’s pronouns is disrespectful; it’s proving that you’ve fallen for the norms laid by society, pertaining to how someone looks determines how they identify. Of course, it is easy to just make up your mind by seeing someone with long hair, wearing a skirt, but you could be wrong. And even if there’s a higher possibility of you being right, it’s still always advisable to not assume. Pronouns are not defined by how you perceive someone, their gender remains relevant whether or not you understand it.
ZE/ZIR/HIR – your safe zone.
Don’t know someone’s pronouns?
Can’t ask them either?
Still need to refer to them?
Use ze/zir or ze/hir.
When addressing someone whose pronouns you’re not sure of, you must use ze/zir or ze/hir.
“I haven’t met hir/zir, but I think ze is pretty cool”
“I don’t know zir/hir name, could you tell me?”
Ze – pronounced with a long “e”
Hir – pronounced as the word “here”
How do you ask someone for their pronoun?
Still seeming a little weird to a lot of people, this is a practice that isn’t as common as it should be considering how important it is. It shows that you respect and acknowledge the other person’s identity. It not only helps the other person feel more comfortable with you but also is a morale booster for them.
Just ask a simple question –
If, at times, you use the wrong pronoun later, with no such intentions of doing so, kindly apologise and be careful about it in future.
WHY PRONOUNS ARE IMPORTANT!
- Represent a Degree of Respect : Acknowledging someone’s identity through their pronoun is a significant way of being respectful. In order to avoid causing anyone to feel negated, distanced, dysphoric or invalidated by using a wrong pronoun, it’s important that we become more cautious and be understanding.
- Celebration of Different Identities : For a long time, many people did not get a chance to acknowledge their gender, but today situations are different. Pronouns are a way to celebrate their uniqueness. A person identifying with a certain pronoun allows them to present themselves in front of the world as they wish to be presented without any boundaries.
If you wish to learn more about the significance of correct pronouns, refer to the following books.
- What’s your pronoun? Beyond he and she. By Dennis Baron.
- They, She, He, Me: Free to be! By Matthew Sg and Maya Christina Gonzalez.
A fact :
English and other languages Unlike english, not all languages have gendered pronouns, which may be called genderless languages. Some examples of such languages are Indo-European languages Armenian, Persian and Central Kurdish (Sorani Dialect), all the modern Turkic languages (such as Turkish), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and most Austronesian languages (such as the Polynesian languages).