Our thoughts on pronouns and why are they important

Most of us are told from the day we are born what gender we are. For many people, our parents are told what our sex is before we are even born. But is there a difference between sex and gender? Yes!

Generally speaking, sex refers to a persons physical characteristics at birth and gender refers to how a person identifies; their innate sense of who they are.

We often think of gender as being just two options: male and female, however, gender is a broad spectrum.

Our society has many stereotypes for different genders and what is considered appropriate clothing, behaviour and pronouns for different groups of people. These include thinking pink is for girls, blue for boys, nurturing and caring as female qualities and men as only providers. We have a long way to go before everyone is free to be themselves and have equality.

For a lot of people, their sex and gender align – for example, if their sex and gender are both female. This person may present their gender in mostly typically feminine ways and use ‘she/her’ pronouns.

Other people don’t subscribe to these constructs. Some people do not identify with one fixed gender, some may feel comfortable embracing both male and female, some may not identify with gender at all and some may even go back and forth between genders. Gender is not always binary.

More often than not, depending on what you look like or how you may present yourself, people make immediate assumptions about our gender. We use pronouns every single day, often without thinking.

Pronouns are simply a part of grammar that we use to refer to a person e.g. me, you, she, her, he, him, they, them, us.

We are taught from a young age that certain hairstyles, clothes, and actions indicate a particular gender. But just because someone looks a certain way on the outside, it doesn’t mean that matches the way they feel on the inside. For some people, being referred to with the wrong pronouns can be very painful, upsetting and alienating. 

Some of the most common pronouns are she/ her and he/ him but there are also gender neutral pronouns too including they/ them. Other pronouns include ze/ zir/ zirs and some people use no pronouns at all and are simply referred to by their name.

Read more about the importance of pronounces and specifically pronouns such as ze/ zir/ zirs.

The best way to learn is to talk, ask questions and most importantly, listen.”

There are many people who push back on this and do not understand, but pronouns matter. This isn’t something to joke about nor is it a political statement.

It can be offensive to make assumptions or deny someone of their identity. Using someone’s correct pronouns is a simple way to show respect and care.

There are many people who do not understand the importance of using the correct pronoun but would be upset if someone continuously used the wrong terms for them.

It can feel strange at first to start introducing yourself with your pronouns and asking other people theirs, but the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels. It can be as simple as saying ‘My pronouns are he/she/they, can I ask what pronouns you use?’.

And remember, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. If you find that you have used the wrong pronoun, apologise, thank them for informing you, remember and move on, trying not to make that mistake again. 

You don’t have to completely understand someone’s lived experience to be able to empathise with them or respect their wishes. Just like our sex or our sexual orientation, our gender is not a choice, it is simply who we are.

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