Pronouns. Pronouns are things that we learned about in grade school and for most people, something they haven’t thought about since (unless we get into learning other languages but that brings up something else entirely). Pronouns are almost always read off the body, which is funny because they actually have nothing to do with bodies. Pronouns are related to gender, so within the gender binary, it makes sense that he/him/his or she/her/hers are the only pronouns people know, and are almost always the pronouns that people read off of others’ bodies. I’m gonna let you in on a little thing called “there are more than two genders” (it’s shocking, I know. I’ll let you think about that for a minute).
Pronouns are something that I hadn’t thought about much myself, until last year when I started thinking about gender, and how the one I was assigned at birth didn’t quite ‘fit’. Since then I have started identifying as nonbinary, and using they/them/theirs pronouns. Saying one’s own pronouns (not preferred pronouns, but pronouns, cause they are not optional thank you very much) has become more and more common in queer circles and in LGBTQIA+ clubs. This is awesome because it can force people to think about the fact that people use more pronouns than just he or she and there are people of other genders, not just man/woman, but unfortunately, it has become very common to say “male” or “female” when asked to state which pronouns one uses. This not only forces people to further conflate “male” with he and “female” with she, which we already do way too much, but it erases anyone who identifies as man/woman and doesn’t use he/she as well as anyone who identifies other than man/woman and does use he/she.
They pronouns are another thing. People refuse to use they as a singular pronoun for those who ask, but use it unconsciously all the time. They has been used singularly throughout literature since Shakespeare and Marlowe’s time with no objections I’ve heard, so why is it so difficult to use it when asked? People often complain that it is too hard to use pronouns other than he and she, so anyone who uses they, xe, ze, or any other pronoun is faced with constant misgendering.
It becomes hard to imagine a place in the work force when the only options on a job application are woman/man. I currently have a job and the transition from people calling me she to calling me they is still very much incomplete. Most people misgender me, whether it is with the use of she pronouns or by calling me girl, and I can’t help but to lose hope for what lies ahead. I’d like to say I always correct people when they call me incorrectly gendered terms or use my birth name, but I don’t. It’s not that I don’t want to, but when I am one little voice that is often unheard or continuously overlooked, speaking up can be the hardest act in the world.
I could talk forever about pronouns, and how there are very few options for pronouns and gendered language apart from he/she or man/woman in other languages, or how people use “he/she” in writing to indicate something is genderneutral. But at the end of the day, what I wonder most is will I be able to live and exist in this world without the constant degradation and attack that misgendering can be?