Let me be the first to wish you a happy IPD. That's right, it's International Pronouns Day!
It’s become a custom, recently, to let other people know your pronouns by way of introduction. You might see them in an email signature, for example. Sometimes people label them as “gender pronouns” or “preferred pronouns” or simply “pronouns.” Or they might just be sitting there next to the person’s name.
This might seem odd or unnecessary the first time you see it, but in practice it’s actually very helpful. If you’ve ever experienced confusion over what pronoun to use with a new acquaintance, well, it can be embarrassing for all parties involved.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Calling somebody by the wrong pronoun can be downright harmful. It can even be a form of disrespect, harassment and abuse.
For some of us, this has never been an issue. Some of us are more or less unambiguously located in one gender or another — whether we want to be or not — and we rarely give it a second thought. No one ever questions our pronouns, not even ourselves. This has been my personal experience.
But it’s a great big world out there, and a great spectrum of humanity. There are plenty of people for whom gender is more nuanced, or complicated, or subtle. These folks may experience discrimination or persecution in a society that has codified every aspect of life into rigid binary codes.
Hopefully, that is changing, but we all need to do our part to make that change real.
It’s a good thing, then, to let people know your pronouns. It’s a good new norm to establish as we work to build a more just and humane society. It’s in this spirit that I’m opting to add my pronouns to my email signature. It’s a little thing, but in some ways it represents something big: the erosion of certain forms of gender privilege, which run deep.
So: He, him, his. These are my pronouns.
What are yours?
- For a good pronoun primer on inclusive teaching, check out this resource from the University of Michigan.
CAT+FD endorses International Pronouns Day, which seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities. We encourage colleges, schools, workplaces, and local organizations to hold educational and empowering events on International Pronouns Day.