You log into a meeting online, and almost everyone has the words (He/him), (She/her), (They/them) next to their names. What is happening? And why is this person putting (he/she/zem) next to their name? Is the world going mad? Not really. Read ahead to find out more.
It could be amazingly simple for somebody who is recognizes the sexual orientation with the sex they were born with (cisgender) to state their pronouns. But for people who are sexual orientation non-conforming or gender-fluid (personalities, behaviors, and/or shapes of expression utilized by individuals that do not adjust to or adjust with conventional double ideas of sex, especially standards around gentility and manliness) (Barnes 2021). We live in a society that has settled ideas and rules (sexual orientation standards) of what it implies to be male or female.
“Sex assigned at birth” refers to the name a medical professional gives to a child when it is born. A medical professional may say a child is male, female or intersex, depending on what the medical professional observes about the baby’s body. For case, a child with a vulva will be labeled a young lady, and an infant with a penis will be labeled a boy. A few babies may have bodies or chromosomes that don’t fit the normal categories of male or female. A medical professional may name them as intersex. Sex assigned at birth is approximately how somebody else sees our bodies and does not take into thought how we feel inside.
Gender identity is all about how we feel on the inside about our gender. It is an internal feeling or sense a person has of being male, female, somewhere in between or something else altogether. Sometimes people’s gender identity matches their bodies, and sometimes it does not. These people have a gender identity that is called “cisgender.” Or someone may be born with a penis and identify as a girl or born with a vagina and identify as a boy. These people may have a gender identity called “transgender.” The way some people feel or sees themselves may not fit into female-male categories. These people may call themselves “gender expansive,” “genderqueer,” “gender non-binary” or something else. Some people may not want to use a label to describe themselves.
When you share your gender identity with the world through outfits, makeup, how you speak and behave, it is called “gender expression.” A person’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity and gender expression can all be different! Who someone is attracted to—their sexual orientation—is not related to sex assigned at birth, gender identity or gender expression. Everyone has a sex assigned at birth, a gender identity and a sexual orientation.
What’s important to remember is that people deserve to express themselves in ways that feel right for them and to be respected no matter how they identify, look, dress or label themselves.
Some individuals may feel that they/them does not sound grammatically correct to them. In case they could opt for the gender neutral singular pronoun sets- ze/ir or xe/xem. The idea is to use pronouns that sound best to the self.
But unnatural as it may sound, we have actually been using ‘they’ to refer to one person more than we realise. For instance, “I called the customer service representative and they helped me fix my laptop”. Or “Each individual should hand in their paper by tomorrow afternoon”. Usually, the “they/them” pronouns set is acceptable to use when you don’t yet know if a person goes by another set or sets of pronouns.
Coming to the importance of pronouns. A person’s pronouns are a fundamental part of one’s personality and identity. They indicate how the individual identifies themself. Using the correct pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them. Just like we wouldn’t use an incorrect name or inappropriate nickname for someone, it is important to use their preferred pronouns as a sign of respect.
When we create an inclusive environment- with individuals stating their pronouns and being respected, it encourages those who may be struggling with their gender identity to be themselves. For instance, sharing one's pronouns on social media is a way to support trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. Even creating a space where people can add their pronouns to their email signature creates support. But just allowing pronouns in the signature or social media bio isn’t enough. A truly safe and supportive environment means one that doesn’t discriminate based on gender identity and creates space for growth, learning and development regardless of gender.
In conclusion, pronouns are words that may often be loaded terms with the way one perceives themself, and so it is essential to respect one’s pronouns and treat them with dignity. So feel free to add your preferred pronoun, Zoom actually offers that option. Let's be progressive and inclusive. Or we'll be stuck in the dark ages, become extinct and redundant like dinosaurs. It doesn't hurt to keep an open mind!