“Could you use he/him or they/them pronouns for me?”
You would think that is a fairly simple question to ask my professor, but it did not feel that way. I was in a room full of strangers, and I did not want to make them feel uncomfortable despite my own discomfort. I raced through that sentence so fast on the first day that I wondered if my professor had even understood me. Although she assured me that using he/they pronouns to address me was no problem, I felt weird. Why do professors rarely ask about their students’ pronouns? If you’re going to ask all of us for our names, why not our pronouns too? None of the cisgender students are going to have to correct you when you assume their pronouns. I always have to correct someone when they misgender me or awkwardly stay silent out of fear.
After only a few days of my first semester, I felt very sad about the way people were perceiving my gender and addressing me. Have you ever felt so dysphoric to the point that you nearly cried in the middle of two different classes? Every person I spoke to while on campus or commuting, like professors, students, bus drivers, and passengers, thought I was a girl. They all assumed my pronouns were she/her. Even a few of the people that I came out to as nonbinary kept calling me “she” without correcting themselves.
I knew that it was unlikely that people were purposefully trying to hurt my feelings, but there were several moments where I felt alienated in social settings. I began calling myself a girl in my head too from others misgendering me so often. I felt discouraged from attempting to appear more gender-neutral or masculine because what difference would it make? I was fighting a losing battle, and I felt powerless to win. Why do I have to put so much energy into correcting people and asserting my pronouns just to be seen?
To those who have pulled me aside in the last few weeks to apologize and have been making a more conscious effort, thank you. However, we need to do more. Say your pronouns when you introduce yourself. If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, ask them rather than assuming. If you’re not familiar with the transgender community, do your own research. It is not solely my job or solely the job of transgender individuals to educate you.
There are so many resources out there! Read a book like The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell or I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver. Watch Sage Skyler’s “A Nonbinary Transition” TED Talk or “What I Wish You Knew About Being Nonbinary” on the Still Watching Netflix Youtube channel. Take more genuine steps to be an ally. We need more representation. We need more education. We need more accountability. Use your cisgender privilege to spread awareness of gender identity! I’m not asking too much or being aggressive by asking you to give us a voice.