Understanding Pronouns: Why They Matter And How To Use Them

Did someone recently ask you what your pronouns are? If so, don’t panic. It’s a sign of good manners these days, especially among younger generations. If you feel out of the loop, don’t panic. You’re far from alone when it comes to this new innovation.

Once considered to be merely a part of grammar school curricula, pronouns became a major part of mainstream culture. Let’s talk about why everyone should be aware of the new push on pronouns today.

Pronouns, Defined

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Do you remember going to school and learning all the different rules about grammar? If so, pronouns might sound familiar. At the very core, pronouns are a basic part of grammar. They are the words we use to refer to an individual in the third person, such as “she,” “he,” “they,” or “it.”

Any word that can be used as a substitute for a noun is a pronoun. “We,” “them,” and “those,” are also pronouns by that definition.

Why Ask?

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Our society is becoming more inclusive, especially toward LGBTQIA+ people. One of the key issues coming to a head is the way transgender people are treated by cisgender people. For a trans person, being called the wrong gender can be extremely hurtful.

In fact, repeated misgendering can even be traumatic for a trans individual. It’s a gesture that makes them feel like a stranger among their own people.

A Sign Of Respect

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The focus on pronouns is one that comes from good intentions. You’re showing them respect by using the pronouns a person wants to be addressed by. Using the right pronouns can make a place more welcoming, inclusive, and polite.

Simply put, it’s a way to clear up misunderstandings and avoid unnecessary hurt. All you need to do is ask a person what their pronouns are and use them in conversations. It’s just that simple.

A Sign Of Class

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There’s something to be said about having good manners and being considerate of others. It’s a sign that a person is classy and raised well. Most elite circles, particularly in academia, have already embraced the practice of using pronouns.

A person unwilling to make this simple accommodation shows that they are self-centered and rude. After all, it’s just a pronoun. It costs nothing to make this simple change. Besides, the benefits of using the right pronouns are very noticeable.

Better Mental Health

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Being transgendered means that you have gender dysphoria, also known as a deep discomfort in the gender you were born in. That feeling of mismatch can cause anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideations. Gender reassignment surgery can help alleviate gender dysphoria, but so can other things.

One of the easiest ways to help alleviate gender dysphoria is to use the right pronouns. It’s a small gesture that can greatly impact a person’s well-being.

Lawsuit Prevention

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It’s important to realize that there are also legal reasons why you might want to use pronouns at work and school. Misgendering a person, especially if it’s on purpose, can lead to a hostile work environment, which can have serious ramifications for your workplace.

Misgendering coworkers can lead to decreased productivity and even a lawsuit. It’s considered a form of harassment and workplace discrimination.

What Pronouns To Use?

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The best pronoun to use is the pronoun your friend or coworker wants to use. Cisgender men use “he,” and cisgender women use “she.” Transwomen generally use “she,” and transmen usually use “he.”

If the individual is gender nonconforming, the typical pronoun choice is “they,” though some will also accept the pronoun affiliated with the sex they were born into. A good rule of thumb is always asking people if you are unsure which pronoun to use.

Beyond Standard Pronouns

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While most people use “traditional” pronouns, a few people prefer neopronouns. Neopronouns are precisely made to refer to nonbinary individuals. These pronouns include “ze/zir” (pronounced “zee” and “zeer”), xe/zyr (pronounced “zee” and “here”), and ey/eir.

Around 4 percent of all LGBT youth use neopronouns. While they are most commonly used to indicate gender-nonconforming individuals, they can be used for any gender.

Asking Pronouns

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If you meet someone new, it’s important to remember to ask their pronouns. While you can often guess what pronouns a person wants to use, the truth is that it’s always better to make sure. The good news is that you don’t have to make this a big deal.

Just ask, “Hey, may I ask you your pronouns?” or “What pronouns do you use?” Most people will react well to this, especially if you preface this with a quick explanation that you don’t want to be rude.

Pronouncing Pronouns

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So, let’s say that you get an email with neopronouns you’ve never seen before. It might be something totally out of left field, with a spelling that throws you for a loop. Good news! There’s a way to handle this, and it’s fairly simple.

If you’re lost on neopronoun pronunciation, just ask your new friend how to pronounce their pronouns.

Misgendering Is Gross

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The LGBTQIA+ world already deals with a lot of struggles. They have to deal with discrimination, parents who may kick them out for being themselves, and the difficulty of trying to find a loving partner. They don’t need to deal with people misgendering them too.

Misgendering a person is one of those things that can really sting, especially for someone who is currently transitioning. Don’t be shocked if people come down hard on you for it. It’s a pretty big gaffe.

Here To Stay

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Love it or hate it, pronouns are now part of the modern guide to etiquette. Using (and asking for) pronouns is an easy way to show that you care about including others, making others comfortable, and doing the right thing. It also shows that you’re “hip to the times.”

Pronouns are here to stay. So, you might as well learn to love them.

Pronouns Are Not Synonymous With Gender

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It’s important to specify that pronouns do not define gender. For instance, some trans people may decide to use he/him/his or she/her/her and neither identify as female or male. Whenever meeting someone new, always ask but avoid assuming what gender they identify with simply based on their answer.

Through History

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Despite what many believe, nonbinary pronouns have always existed. For example, some languages simply don’t differentiate between ‘he’ and ‘she’ and use a single pronoun for everybody. Concerning English, the famous writer Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, used the pronoun ‘they’ in his novel The Pickwick Papers to conceal the gender of a character for a few pages.

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