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Gender Pronouns: ‘What Do You Like to Be Called?’

“The pronoun is one of the most terrifying masks that man has invented.”

-John Fowles

The LGBTQIA community has faced a lot of hurdles and obstacles in being able to come out of their closets due to various legal issues including being criminalized for having a different gender identity as opposed to the one they were born into. 

They go through a lot, in their lives including the basic question of self-acceptance, and tend to face a bucket full of obstacles daily, including the struggle for basic rights and equality. It is fairly obvious that nobody deserves to be treated like this – to be pushed to a spot of shame where you feel so shattered that locking up the reality inside a ‘closet’ seems easier than letting it out to the people around you.

This unresolved crisis leaves individuals struggling whilst, some of them manage to embark on a journey to “find themselves.” To kick open the closet doors and celebrate pride where they are, alas, met with indifference, disrespect, and sheer ignorance from society.

Also Read: Pride- Why Can’t We Seem to Embrace the Rainbow?

The irony, however, is that sometimes without meaning to offend, these circumstances occur due to the lack of basic awareness. This can be eradicated by travelling on the easy road to becoming a supportive person or an ‘ally’ and creating a safe space for everyone, equally. It is all about embracing certain concepts, the most essential of them being ‘gender pronouns.’

What are gender pronouns and why are they so important?

Imagine being a woman who feels uncomfortable in her body, who has always preferred wearing jeans with a loose shirt over having to dress up in a ‘dress’ and carrying pixie cuts over long hair & complicated hairstyles; someone sad about puberty and someone who has associates more with a masculine ‘way of conduct’. When someone like that finally decides to bash in all doors and choose to lead a life as gender non-binary with pride in who they are- they wouldn’t want to be called ‘she/her’ just because they are females (or were originally females).

They associate their struggle as well as their identity with what they chose to be. That is what gender pronouns represent. PGPs (Preferred Gender Pronouns) as they are abbreviated, have more to do with the choice of identification as exercised by individuals who associate with the ‘rainbow’.

Also Read: Opening the pathway for Transgenders in India

It is essential to understand that there are more than two genders which fall under a category known as ‘non-binary.’

The foundation of LGBTQIA happened during times when gender was a strictly binary system. In English, males have always been referred to as ‘he or him’ and females as ‘she or her’ whereas a group of people is addressed as ‘them or they’, but it is essential to understand that there are more than two genders which fall under a category known as ‘non-binary.’

People tend to associate themselves with pronouns of their choice, the most common being ‘them or they’, and try to compartmentalize people between the male “he” and the female “she” and their associated pronouns. However, this compartmentalization takes away the self-identity from those individuals who identify themselves as non-binary in the Pride community. 

How do you politely learn someone’s correct gender pronoun?

The concept of gender pronouns can be very complicated and confusing. It is understandably so because people refuse to talk about it and discuss it in detail.

Walking up to someone and just asking them – how they identify themselves – can make people uncomfortable sometimes. It is very essential to understand that coming out of a closet is one of the hardest things that a person has to do. Therefore, assumptions are not appropriate- you might be forcing them to come out when they aren’t ready!

Walking up to someone and just asking them – how they identify themselves – can make people uncomfortable sometimes.

One of the easiest ways to make sure that you don’t get it wrong is by taking the initiative and introducing yourself. “Hello, I am Aakanksh (fictitious name), I’m 22 and I prefer being addressed as ‘them or they’, what about you?” 

A simple me-first rule would save you as well as the other person from a lot of misconceptions, embarrassment and troubles.

Another very essential thing is to get your terms correct- gender pronouns are often known as preferred pronouns too. But, the term ‘preferred’ can easily be interpreted in the wrong way. It isn’t correct to insinuate that genders are a preference instead of something that you are born with- this is one of the beliefs that the LGBTQIA community spend their lives fighting against.

Also Read: Is There a Future for Feminism?

It is essential to understand that it’s these little things that tend to go a very long way sometimes- this question might not mean a lot to you but, it makes the people from the LGBTQIA community feel valued, appreciated, and even acknowledged.

We live in a world where we fight to survive every day, whether it is poverty, a fight for our rights, a fight against evil, fear, heartbreak and pain, or a fight to the top- we all struggle to make it. Somewhere. Somehow. We always hear people telling us that it’s each man for himself out there and the world is a mean place. 

The question that arises is this- does it have to be one or does it choose to be one?

Well, believe it or not, we can change. The world can change for the better,

If we try to support each other and help each other instead of pushing each other down as if it’s a race or war, we would be taking a step towards the betterment. A step towards the light. We can easily do so by doing something as simple as using gender pronouns!

Remember, if we keep on going ahead in the same direction, we are bound to make it to the top, together!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author solely. TheRise.co.in neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

About the author

Author, poetess and freelance writer

Mehak Walia

Author, poetess and freelance writer

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