As a society, we are learning that not everything is binary, and as a result, we are discovering the many ways that people identify.
While many of us are aware of gender pronoun usage and the developing language within it, many of us are not and that is what this blog will cover. Starting with the basics, a pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (like I or you), or someone that is being talked about. Gender pronouns specifically refer to people that you are talking about and/or the pronoun that a person uses for themselves.
Examples are He/Him/His (masculine pronouns), She/Her/Hers (feminine pronouns), They/Them/Theirs (neutral pronouns), Ze/Zir/Zirs (neutral pronouns), and Ze/Hir/Hirs (neutral pronouns).
Some examples in use are:
He/Him/His: Lore took his car because it took him awhile to get together and he didn’t want to walk.
She/Her/Hers: Lore took her car because she didn’t want to walk, and the car is hers to use.
Gender neutral pronouns are commonly used for individuals who identify as non-binary. They/their/theirs/them can be used in the singular.
They/their/theirs/them: Lore took their car because it took them awhile to get ready, they didn’t want to walk, and the car is theirs to use.
There are also neopronouns, which are neutral pronouns. These are any set of singular third-person pronouns that were directly created are adapted within the language instead of evolving with it. Ze/Zir/Zirs and ze/hir/hirs are examples of neopronouns. Ze/Zir/Zirs are gender neutral neopronouns and can be used by anyone regardless of their gender identiy or expression. Ze, pronounced like zee, can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she, he, and they. Zir replaces him, her, and their. Zirs replaces his, hers, and theirs. The first known use of ze was in 1997 by Richard Creel. Another version was possibly independently created by Kate Bornstein in the 1998 book My Gender Workbook. This version uses ze and hir. The most popular variations of these pronouns are based on this version and were created in 2013.
Why using the correct gender pronoun is important.
I’ve always believed in mutual respect amongst human beings. Although I didn’t and sometimes don’t understand certain aspects of gender identity such as people who are not binary, I find I don’t need to understand it to respect. I try my hardest to use the correct pronouns as I continue to educate myself and be educated. As we grow and learn, we can do better. It’s impossible to always know a person’s pronouns by simply looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. When someone is uses the wrong pronouns, it can make the person they are referring to feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, and often, all the above. All major professional American psychological and psychiatric associations recognize that inclusive language usage for LGBTQ+ youth and adults drastically decrease experiences of depression, social anxiety, suicidal ideation, and other negative mental health factors. As a cis gender male, I recognize that it is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to refer to me as based on how they perceive me. By having this privilege, and failing to respect someone else’s gender identity, it would be disrespectful, hurtful, and respectful on my part. Most importantly, I would be contributing to the oppression that this causes. Purposefully misgendering is offensive and disrespectful to anyone but especially to our trans and gender non-conforming members of the community. Now, there have been times where I have mistakenly misgendered someone and to this day it happens. It is a work in process unlearning the cisgender norms society constantly shoves down your throat. If this is done to the person that you are referring to directly, and they correct you gracious, also remember to give yourself a lot of grace and patience in the process as you continue to grow and learn.