Everyone wants to feel safe, respected, and validated, but pronoun misuse disregards these wants. Honestly, this problem is way too common. How many times have I heard “Oh, I did not know” or “Well they looked like…” or several other types of variations. Many people who misuse pronouns blame it on lack of knowledge or it being an accident, but it all comes down to one fact. They assumed. They judged someone by what they were wearing, how they were acting, their physical features, and based their conclusion on stereotypes held for certain appearances. It is an easy issue to avoid, and, in my opinion, the public should be educated more.
Assuming pronouns is hurtful. It often comes across as ignorance and is not in support of the LGBTQIA community. Assumptions are often formed through outdated ideas involving the different sexes that make up our society. They group individuals together instead of identifying the things that make us unique and ourselves. Imagine being constantly identified as something you are not. It would be exhausting trying to continuously correct people. To lessen the harmful impact that gender and sexuality stereotyping can cause, we can all be more mindful of what we say and how we act towards each other.
Whenever I start in a new class, we always take a few minutes to acknowledge the pronouns every person prefers. I think this is a great step that should be integrated into every classroom, workplace, etc. It is also important to realize that sharing one’s preferred pronouns is a personal decision which they should feel comfortable to do or not to do. This can reduce gender and sexuality assumptions and create a safe space for everyone. The goal is for every individual to feel welcome and included.
Educating yourself, adjusting your behavior, and staying mindful are simple ways to be an ally to the LGBTQIA community. Using gender-inclusive language is a big way to do this. Instead of using words that divide individuals into male or female categories, try using gender-neutral words. For example, instead of saying husband or wife, switch to the term spouse. It is very common to start using gender-neutral pronouns and case endings. Instead of Latina or Latino, we can use Latinx to stray from gender forward language.
It is OKAY if you slip up, if you make a conscious effort to correct yourself and apologize for any misperceptions. This shows that you care about how your words will affect another and want to remain respectful. Acknowledging that not everyone uses cisgender pronouns is a practice of not assuming. Support can also be shown by educating yourself. Learn about different pronouns and how to correctly use them in a sentence. There are amazing resources provided for free by every college institution. Even a quick search on the Human Rights Campaign website can help you better yourself.
Make the decision to be an ally! Listen to those around you, practice not assuming, and learn from your mistakes. Happy *almost* Pride Month!