A How To Guide: When Someone You Know Has Changed Their Pronouns
I have changed my pronouns before and this is the advice I like to give people when they ask how to handle it. I get that it can be difficult, especially if you’ve known someone for years before they made this change. Here are some things to remember.
1. It ain’t about you. Yes, it’s a little uncomfortable the first few times you try to remember their pronouns (and in some cases, their current name). But YOUR discomfort about remembering something does not trump their dysphoria about being misgendered. Once you realize that it ain’t about you, it gets easier to remember. After all, this is someone you respect. So show it.
2. Ask when it’s appropriate to use their pronouns. Some people don’t use their pronouns everywhere because of safety concerns. Some people aren’t out to everyone. And some folks are fluid in relation to their pronouns. It isn’t your place to judge. If it’s okay with the person, you might consider completely dropping pronoun usage, especially in unsafe environments. Meaning, instead of s/he (or whatever else their pronoun is), just use their name. I find that makes the transition a little smoother.
3. Yes. You will need to think a second longer before you speak until it becomes second nature. In my cellphone, if someone changes their name or pronouns, I place a reminder next to their name. So for about a month is says Current Name/Previous Name (Pronoun). Example: Sally/Andrew (she). That way if I see a new number called Sally in my phone I’m not like, “Who the fuck is this?” After a while, I remember without the reminder and then I delete it. Same with screennames and such. I’ve used rhyming words to help remember things. There are lots of mental tricks to help. Do whatever you gotta do. But when you talk TO them or ABOUT them or in RELATION to them… use the correct words. I’m notoriously HORRIBLE at remembering things so I tell people upfront. “Just so you know, I will do my very best to respect you and call you by your correct name/pronouns. I might fuck up because I am forgetful but PLEASE call me on it and I’ll make sure it doesn’t continue.” Not once has anyone been anything other than appreciative because everyone likes to feel respected.
4. WHEN (not if because if you do this long enough, you WILL) you misgender someone, APOLOGIZE. Don’t make it a huge deal. Simply, “I’m sorry.” I like to use someone’s name when I apologize because it sounds more sincere and it’s a reminder for myself as well. Use the correct pronoun (or name) and move one. Making a big deal of it to look super progressive actually makes you look like an ass. And if you’re really sorry, it shouldn’t keep happening.
That’s pretty much it. And yes, you have to use their pronoun and/or name even when they aren’t around. Saying shit like, “You know Andrew, right?” when you are talking about Sally is fucked up. Something like, “You know Sally, right?” Then describe the person. And if someone else misgenders them (and it’s someone who should know better) correct them. If not, you are co-signing their disrespectful bullshit and that’s not cool.
Over and out.
When people say “But it (homosexuality/trans people/polyamory/gender-neutral parenting/whatever) will confuse teh childrenz!”
Dude. Confusion is a primary state of being for children. Children are confused by child-proof medicine bottles. A favorite pastime of many a child is asking “Why?” about any piece of information presented to them. Confusion is not something to be afraid of or shield your child from. Give them an explanation and move on.