Happy Pride month! You may have noticed recently that social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn have included areas in your profiles where you can now list your pronouns. While some industries have had the practice in place for years by including pronouns in their email signatures, it’s finally starting to be more wide spread and recognized, however it’s often asked why it matters. In the English language, our most commonly used pronouns have been utilized to indicate someone’s gender. However, for some who identify as queer, the pronouns they choose to identify themselves with can cause stress and anxiety, due to their complicated nature, especially in social contexts.
For example – I was assigned female at birth (also known as AFAB), however I identify as gender fluid, and use both she/her and they/them pronouns. That said, because I appear female, I am often assumed to be such, even though I do not always identify as being female.
This sounds complicated – can you explain a bit further?
Gender is a vast and evolving concept, and both language and labels are key pieces to understanding your gender identity, but also how you interact with the world around you. While your sex indicates your biological chromosomes, your gender identity is your own internal perception and experience of your gender and how you choose to label it. Pronouns are often the clearest way to label it, especially for the benefit of a group setting. Here are some common terms to help you understand the spectrum a bit better:
Cisgender: This is used to describe someone whose gender matches their assigned sex at birth.
Transgender: This applies to someone whose gender is different from their assigned sex at birth. This is an umbrella term which encompasses a lot of other identities within.
Non-binary: Also referred to as enby, it has it’s own spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine – they’re outside of the gender binary. They can identify as genderfluid, agender, or something else entirely.
Genderfluid: This applies to someone who’s gender identity changes over time or is just different at times.
Agender: This applies to someone who sees themselves as neither woman nor man or has no gender to express.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does cover a lot of umbrella terms that are often used. If you’re interested in learning more about terms used with gender identities, Healthline has a great list.
Okay – this makes sense! How can I do better?
As mentioned before, pronouns are exceptionally important to one’s gender identity, but can often cause a lot of stress and anxiety due to societal expectations and assumptions that are made. If you want to make others feel welcome and comfortable, it’s a good practice to include your pronouns without being prompted when introducing yourself. This shows that you are intentionally making this a safe space for people to be their authentic selves, without pressure or judgement. If you are cisgendered, it is even more important as an ally to normalize the inclusion of pronouns in your profiles, your email signatures, your Zoom meeting handles, etc. The more we can come together on this, the more we can build towards a better world for each other.
My challenge to you is simple – update your social profiles with your pronouns. Talk to your employers about including them in email signatures – Redstone has recently implemented this across our organization! Introduce yourself by including your pronouns going forward. These small, easy steps will go a long way.
Let us know how your workplace is integrating allyship into their best practices!
Natalie Wallace, CAE
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