At the start of school, when people are getting to know each other and teachers are assigning introductory questionnaires, you may have noticed an added question that hasn’t been asked before: What are your preferred pronouns?
Thanks to a growing culture of inclusivity and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, it is no longer uncommon to share one’s set of pronouns along with their name during introductions in both casual conversation and professional settings.
For so long, people have been under the misconception that sex is synonymous with gender and that one’s appearance dictates what they identify as. Therefore, the vast majority conclude people’s pronouns on the basis of assumption— if they have a feminine or masculine name or their outward appearance, among other things.
With more teachers asking this simple question, transgender, gender noncomforming and nonbinary students can be referred to with the correct terms. More than that, the question of one’s pronouns in conversation should be normalized, as it’s much less invasive than the typical “are you a boy or a girl?’ type of question. Not everyone identifies as a binary gender like male or female, as evidenced by nonbinary people, but everyone has pronouns.
There is also the issue of closeted transgender students having their teachers refer to them by their preferred pronouns in front of their parents when they use a different set at home. However, this problem can easily be remedied by teachers asking what set of pronouns to use when referring to students in front of their parents. Again, it’s simple, yet considerate questions like these that allow transgender or nonbinary youth to feel more comfortable being themselves.
For the most part, teachers asking their students for their pronouns is a great method of making trans students feel welcome in the classroom. But, interrogating one about their pronouns in casual conversation can often be counter-intuitive, despite initially seeming progressive.
Some people are just uncomfortable with sharing their pronouns, because, in most cases, it reveals their gender identity as well. Students who aren’t out to anyone, even at school, might be deterred from sharing their preferred pronouns in fear of judgement, as they may not currently pass as the gender they identify as according to society’s standards. Because of this, it shouldn’t be a problem if someone doesn’t want to give out their pronouns.
As small an action as it may seem, becoming comfortable with sharing one’s pronouns in a casual or professional conversation is a major step toward having a more accepting society.