Gender Pronoun 101 for Cis Accomplices

By : Lowrah · December 1, 2014

I came upon this article which shows the basic reasons WHY using preferred pronouns is absolutely necessary, no exceptions.  Please click through to learn more, I've only taken tiny excerpts for a quick read. And after the five WHYs, I've included my own five HOWs at the end of this post.

5 Ways Using Correct Gender Pronouns Will Make You a Better Trans* Ally

1. Language Shapes Culture

When we use and invent new words to describe people who identify outside of a strict gender binary, we legitimize those ways of being, and participate in the larger struggle for trans* visibility.

2. Respect Others’ Realities

...remember that you do not know more about someone’s gender identity than they do, so it’s not up to you to decide who they are, what to call them, or to make assumptions about their body.

3. Hold the Media Accountable

When you see a news story about a trans* person that uses incorrect and offensive gender identifiers, call them out!

4. Fight Transphobia and Sexism

Being a trans* activist/ally means you’re also working for gender equality.

5. Educate Our Communities

Start an ongoing dialogue with the people around you about the issues facing trans* folks and why it’s so important to use the pronouns they’re asked to use.

5 Reminders about HOW to respect gender pronouns

Here are my own five points for HOW.

Once you accept that preferred pronouns are the absolute least you can do to fight transphobia and promote trans* inclusion, you might be in need of some actionable next steps. I do not identify as transgender, I do not speak for trans* folks, but these are some things I have learned on my journey toward becoming a better person. Friends, feel free to comment, and to correct me. I am also here to learn.

1. Take pronoun sharing seriously.

"Please tell us your name and preferred gender pronoun if you feel comfortable sharing it." Take it seriously, adhere to the format. Don't giggle, don't say "whatever you want to call me" (hellooooo, cis privilege), and don't do anything but LISTEN intently and nod while internalizing people's preferences. When introducing yourself to someone it's the same thing. It can be so hard to "come out" over and over again when you are used to people misgendering you, and to have to validate your identity to complete strangers. Taking the situation seriously shows respect and support.

2. "Male" and "female" are sexes, not genders.

When someone asks you about gender pronouns, examples of appropriate answers are... pronouns. That have to do with gender. "Masculine" is not a pronoun. Is it gendered? Socially, yes, but part of not assuming things about gender identity is accepting that both genders can be "masculine," so this answer is not helpful. Possible answers for "What is your preferred gender pronoun?" could be, "She/her, they/them, ze/zir, he/him."

3. Don't correct people if someone is misgendered.

This sounds weird, right? Misgendering is at the very least insensitive and sometimes feels criminal! How is it right to stand by and not say anything?! The rule for me is that other people's genders are not mine to reveal. What if you embarrass or endanger the misgendered person? What if they are trying to pass? What if the misgendered person is going to talk with the offender in private and by speaking up you steal their power and thunder? But don't worry, there are ways to support your friends when they are misgendered. Take them aside and ask, "I heard you were misgendered. Would you like me to talk to that person? In the future, would you like me to speak up, or is there another way I can have your back?"

4. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and move on.

It is up to you to respect people’s wishes. It is up to you to practice, and to speak about them when they are not there with their preferred pronouns. But mistakes happen. Acknowledge it with an, “I’m sorry,” and move on. Being overly apologetic is self-serving because you make yourself feel better while intensely “othering” the person you misgendered. Awkward.

5. Introduce yourself and your preferred gender pronouns.

Cis folks! When at a meeting or a potluck or a hockey game… start the gender pronoun ball rolling with your own introduction. Even if you are the only one. ESPECIALLY if you are the only one. It is also a good segue to asking, “Which pronouns do you prefer?” If cis folks ask you… why did you share that? It is a great opportunity for your elevator speech on how gender identity is an infinite spectrum, people choose to identify outside of a binary system, and how respecting preferred pronouns is a step toward inclusion and acceptance of trans* and genderqueer folks.

Please also check out these Do's and Don'ts around gender pronoun etiquette on robot-hugs:


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  I wish that it was this way always. It was as a young person reading a book that described the difference of boys and girls that I realized that I was feminine. Inside I ID as a female but everybody else left no doubt that was not possible and you would be rejected. What others wanted from you were more important than what you felt like.
Your life choices were very limited and you always lived in fear and scared most of the time. I would read about other cultures that would give the person a choice of gender when they reached puberty. A male could declare  that they consider themselve female and live that way and the same for the females.
It was only when I was 50 to find acceptance in belly dancing classes at Pratt. A lifetime of being scared has taken their toll. I am proud to declare my pronoun as she and her but from life experience know that there is alot of hate and fear out there.  I find that when I'm in the present of grease rag and with females ,I say one thing but in an unknown public scene I am more careful. I think that trans men and women challenge the present status quo of male privelidge.
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