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Why and how we use pronouns

Over the last few years, lots of things have changed and evolved with gender pronouns. That’s partially because more and more people are starting to use gender-neutral pronouns. According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 12% of millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, and the majority believe that gender is a spectrum and non-binary. In 2019, there was a 313% rise in searching for the definition of the word “they,” which led to Miriam Webster making it their word of the year.

This shift in the conversation around gender is important when it comes to being inclusive and respectful. Pronouns, which are the words we use to help us talk about others, are so common in the English language, and we use them countless times throughout a day. If you are ever unsure of someone’s pronouns, always ask. It can be a little intimidating at first, but normalising the process of asking about someone’s pronouns before making an assumption based on how that person presents or their name can help more people to feel seen and included.

Some people argue that they/them pronouns are confusing, since they can be used to describe a group of people. However, we already use them to refer to a single person without realising. For example:

Jamie’s friend is coming over later but I don’t know their name.

This is an example of using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to a single person. If someone uses they/them pronouns, it’s important to also use them and respect that. If you don’t, it can affect their mental health.

Why are pronouns important?

Assuming someone’s gender sends a message that people have to look a certain way to be included in that gender. That can be harmful and lead to things like body dysmorphia.

Often, people who don’t conform to the stereotypical genders can feel like they are outside of society, never being included. That’s why it’s so important to use the correct pronouns. If you use the incorrect pronouns, it’s like calling someone a nickname they don’t like, or if someone continuously got your name wrong.

Even worse, if you actively ignore the pronouns someone has told you they use, that can imply you think intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people don’t or shouldn’t exist. Again, it’s important to create space for all people, including with the language we use.

Famous faces

Recently, there have been several celebrities who have come forward to say they now use the pronouns “they/them,” which is massively helpful for raising awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. The amount of publicity they get it will help educate people on how to use the correct pronouns.

Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, and Jonathan Van Ness and have all come forward and say they now identify as non-binary or gender fluid. This refers to someone who does not identify only as a man or a woman within that traditional gender binary. They could identify as both a man and a woman, in between the two genders, or not a part of any gender category at all. This is why they use the pronouns “they/them”.

Language is always evolving, and we should be respectful of that. Using the correct pronouns for people is not optional, and we should always be open to learning new things, especially when it can make the world feel like a safer, more inclusive place for everyone.

Olivia Messer

Posted June 9, 2021