October 20 is International Pronouns Day. It’s a day to commit to learning about and sharing your pronouns. Before my son Leo came out as transgender, I never gave a single thought to my own or anyone else’s pronouns. It never occurred to me that people would have pronouns that didn’t match the gender they presented as. In fact, I never realized that people would present as a gender different from the one they identified as. Or that they would present as different from the one they were assigned at birth.
Clearly, I had a lot of cis-gender privilege.
As cis-gender people (someone who is not transgender or non-binary), we have never had to consider our pronouns. People have always looked at us, how we present ourselves, or our name, and have correctly guessed our pronouns. For transgender and non-binary people, that’s not their experience. They are often misgendered due to assumptions people make about them. We should never make assumptions based on how people look.
Having a transgender child has opened my eyes to ways I haven’t been very inclusive in my life.
I thought I was an ally to the LGBTQ community, but ally is an action word. By not being mindful of other people’s pronouns, I wasn’t a very good ally.
One of the first ways we support out transgender kids is by using their correct names and pronouns. If you are having trouble getting your child’s pronouns right, this post has some tips. Using gender-neutral pronouns takes practice, and I’ve written about that here.
Sharing your pronouns with others is an invitation to the transgender and nonbinary community. It tells them that you are a safe person. Someone who they can trust to out themselves to if they choose. By sharing your pronouns first, it allows transgender and non-binary people to feel safe to share their pronouns if they choose. It makes them feel more comfortable in a conversation with you or someone else.
How do we do this?
- Add your pronouns to your social media profiles. Almost every social media platform now gives you the ability to add your pronouns to your bio. You will find they usually show up under or after your name. For Zoom, you can put your first and last name (or just your first name) in the first name box and your pronouns in the last name box. This lets your pronouns show up during a meeting.
- Put your pronouns in your email signature. I have found that putting a line under your name dedicated to pronouns works best in email. For example, my signature says Pronouns: She/Her/Hers. You don’t have to capitalize pronouns in a signature, but I want to emphasize them, so I do.
- Share your pronouns when you introduce yourself. If you are not used to doing this, it will take practice. It’s as simple as saying, “Hi, my name is Beth. My pronouns are she, her, and hers.” By sharing your pronouns first, you are inviting others to share their pronouns as well.
For transgender and non-binary people, every interaction with an unknown person is a minefield. They don’t know if they are about to have a discussion with someone safe or with someone who is transphobic. In their minds, they are trying to decide if they will even talk to that person, let alone out themselves. By sharing your pronouns, you let them know that you are a safe person and invite them to share their pronouns making it less awkward for them.
On this International Pronouns Day, I challenge you to update your social media profiles and email signatures, and your Zoom name if you haven’t already. Practice sharing your pronouns when you introduce yourself. Let’s make it second nature.
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