It’s October, which means it’s LGBTQ+ History Month! To celebrate this important month, I thought I’d write about a popular issue in the conversation surrounding LGBTQ+ people: personal pronouns. One of the main questions I’ve heard regarding personal pronouns is why does it matter which pronouns I refer to them as? Even LGBTQ+ allies ask this, even if they have positive intentions. Why does it matter which pronoun I use? Words don’t matter, so why do people care so much about their pronouns? In response to these questions, I say you’re wrong – words do matter. If you are a cisgender person, imagine what it would feel like to consistently be referred to as she or her, when you are a male or vice versa. It would feel weird right? Maybe once or twice it wouldn’t matter, but over time, it builds. Can you picture what it would feel like to consistently be referred to as someone you’re not? It would hurt and break you down to constantly have your identity denied.
Because of this, it is important to refer to people as the personal pronouns they identify with. Use the pronouns someone tells you they identify with. If you do not know which pronouns someone uses, do not be afraid to ask. When you meet someone, it is a good idea to introduce yourself with your pronouns. For example, I would say, “My name is Riley Boike, and I use she/her/hers pronouns.” If you accidentally refer to someone using the wrong pronouns, just apologize and try to use the correct pronouns from that point on. Here is a game to practice using pronouns you may not be used to.
Personal pronouns are part of a person’s identity, so make sure you use the correct ones!