The Importance of Pronouns

ziz immelman (they/them), Contributor


Yo, what up, gamers? I hope your Friday (or whatever day it is when you’re reading this) has smacked so far. I hope that you have smiled a bit and that you have had enough water and that you have taken your vitamins and that you have not misgendered any transgender people today!

I was having a great day yesterday, and that’s a rare occurrence for me these days. I got all of my responsibilities done and even had time to read a book that was not assigned to me. The sun was sticking around; the birds were singing some chill tunes, and the resting leaves were finally starting to gain that perfect crunch. Then someone called me “her,” and it somehow managed to ruin the rest of my day. Usually, I am able to move on after 2-5 minutes of panic and dissociation, but yesterday it hit harder, I suppose.

The importance of pronouns and gender-affirming language is eons more vital than many people tend to realize. It is fairly common for people to either not care or to wrongly think that trans people have “preferred” pronouns. We just have pronouns, and it is crucial that one refers to trans people with their correct pronouns, names, and gender-related terms. When you misgender a person, you are contradicting that person’s entire existence, and it can have an immense and lasting impact on us.

This happens pretty much anywhere. When I’m out with a femme friend, I can count on us being called “ladies.” When I go out to eat, I can count on the employees calling me “miss” and then getting uncomfortable when I ask them to stop. When I need medical services, I can count on repeatedly getting she/her pronouns even after informing them of my pronouns sternly and on multiple occasions. I can count on them refusing to use my correct name because they claim they need to use my legal name, even though I don’t have the resources to change it yet. These are experiences that countless trans people have to deal with, and it makes the dysphoria and trans experience a whole-lot harder

We know that it will be a long road for us to be completely recognized and respected by the majority, but it really starts with you. You reading this article right now. It may be new to you, and maybe it feels a bit odd, but it’s never too late to start educating yourself. An old friend of mine once told me that “to correctly gender a trans person could be to save a life,” and I think those are words we should all have in mind when speaking to and about transgender people.

So if you’re genuinely having a hard time with pronouns and want to get better, that’s great! All you have to do is practice. Ask for people’s pronouns so you don’t misgender them without realizing it. Talk about trans people when we’re not around so that it starts to become natural to you. However, if you just don’t want to do it, get over yourself. When it’s “too confusing for you,” it hurts us. When you just “don’t agree with it,” it hurts us, and our existence has done nothing to hurt you.

All that trans people ask is for our gender (or lack thereof) to be respected and recognized, and that starts with you. So now it’s time to level-up, gamers! We are saying “trans rights!” in 2019 and every year after. And when you’re going about your day today, I hope you smile, stay hydrated, take your vitamins, and correctly gender a transgender person.

This article was originally published in the October 11, 2019 issue.