Preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) are a perennial issue for transgender people. It’s confusing to friends and family when we ask for a new pronoun. Strangers misgender us and go for the wrong word. Well-meaning people struggle to use gender-neutral pronouns or keep slipping up and using the pronoun of our assigned sex. Those little syllables can make us cry, puke, or scream–or they can make our day. Here are a few reasons we should all take the time to get pronouns right.
1. The Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Would you like it if someone referred to you with the wrong gender pronouns? What if everybody referred to you with the wrong pronouns?
2. Set an example. Are you an awesome trans person or ally who knows your friends’ and colleagues’ PGPs? Be an example for those who don’t know the right words or are struggling with a pronoun change. If people hear you referring to someone as he/she/they/ze/etc., they’re likely to follow suit.
3. Give a gift. When I was early in my transition, the words he/him/his were music to my ears. It truly made my day when friends, classmates and strangers got my pronouns right. Do a good deed–use someone’s PGPs today.
4. Mental acuity. Do you value your ability to learn new things and remember important information? It is really tricky adjusting to a friend’s pronoun change or learning to use unfamiliar pronouns. Keep your mind limber and expand you vocabulary. As they say, you either use it or lose it.
5. Embrace change. It can be genuinely disorienting, even stressful, when a loved one comes out as transgender. It can also be confusing when you get to know a person who uses pronouns you haven’t heard before. By using PGPs, you commit to embracing the change life has thrown your way. This flexibility will serve you well in all endeavors. Plus, next time, you might be the one going through a major life change and hoping your community will rally around you.
6. Build relationships. I vividly remember how friends and relatives reacted when I started going by male pronouns. I remember those who cared about my wishes and made a good faith effort to change. And I remember those who griped, moaned, and generally appeared to care more about individual syllables than about me. This one thing didn’t make or break any relationships, but it’s no coincidence that none of the complainers are part of my life now.
7. It’s the right thing to do. Enough said.