Why Pronouns Matter

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July 1, 2021
Read Time: 2 minutes

 

Since time immemorial, language has changed, and we have always learned to adapt

 

 

At the risk of sounding naïve and ignorant, I was one of the many people who felt indifferent towards the proper usage of pronouns, especially amid a culture and landscape that evolve so rapidly. As a features writer, the first opportunity I had to educate myself on the proper usage of gender-neutral pronouns was through a profile assignment I did for digital creative, Mark Averilla, back in August 2020: Finding Unexpected Humor During A Pandemic: A Conversation with Macoy Dubs

 

On their email signature, it read “Mark Averilla (They/Them).” I won’t lie, the moment I read those words, I panicked. Writing required more forethought, caution and practice, but I discovered that it was certainly not, in any way, difficult. All I needed was to be open-minded, to educate myself and to make space for other people’s lived experiences. 

 

RELATED: “Allyship Is a Verb” and Other Lessons on Becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally

 

Safe to say, gender-neutral pronouns have been around for a very long time for English speakers. Language, as fluid as it is, inevitably changes over time; we, as a human race, have always learned to adapt. At The Atlantic, John McWhorter writes in Call Them What They Want, “If English had not changed in exactly these kinds of ways forever, we’d all be speaking the language of Beowulf. Some might wish it so, but count me out. Pronouns change, just as we do. We celebrate language change that has already happened as pageant, procession, progress. Why not celebrate it while it’s happening?”

 

Recently developed gender-neutral English-language pronouns “make space not just for two genders, but for many more, serving as a way for people who fall outside the binary of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ to describe themselves,” writes Michael Waters on Where Gender-Neutral Pronouns Come From for The Atlantic. A quick Twitter search on “pronouns” and “gender-neutral pronouns,” and you’ll find public posts of gratitude on being accepted and represented through the simple usage of their right pronouns.

 

 

How people identify themselves, especially for those who are transgender, intersex and/or non-binary, is our business, and by that, I mean we need to do the work to correctly address how others reflect their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE). And yes, that may even mean having the occasional slip, but trying again. 

 

If we feel insulted when people misspell or mispronounce our names, what more if we were misgendered? It’s not hard, really. Using the right pronouns in this ever-evolving linguistic landscape means being “politically correct,” but it’s also being human and creating the safe space for others to be their most genuine selves.

 

 

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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