Trans* Pronouns 101
Nobody wants to be that person in a social situation. You know, the one who gets their pronouns all wrong? There you are in a room with people identifying as ze, they or hir and it doesn’t even occur to you to ask. You make a few assumptions about peoples’ genders, are met with blank stares or even worse, and pretty soon you’re in a corner all alone. Well, we’re here to help you not be that person.
If you’re not sure what went wrong, but are sure you don’t want to be that person in any room, then it may be time for you to update your gender and pronoun vocabulary. Avoiding a social faux pas and respecting a person’s ability to identify themselves, will ensure you get an invite to the next function. Pronouns are a basic building block of language that indicate the gender of the person you’re referring to. Traditionally, pronouns come in he/him or she/her, and are determined based on what’s assigned at birth. For example, when somebody is born and the doctor says, “It’s a girl! She’s beautiful. What will you name her?”Cisgender folks are those who feel their bodies are aligned with their gender assigned at birth, which is the experience most supported by society. So, for many cis folks, the story of their gender ends right there, as does their thinking about the appropriate label in which to address a person.
But the two-party system of pronouns is outdated, as there are a range of people whose gender stories are more complex. Finding self-descriptive language that feels right can be a tricky process, and one that only the individual can determine best. Some transgender folks identify as male or female, though it’s the opposite gender of the one assigned at birth. Genderqueers don’t subscribe to the idea of only two genders and may feel more comfortable somewhere in between. Bigenders identify as male and female and some First Nations folks embody both feminine and masculine spirits. Agenders identify as no gender at all. Luckily, there are more neutral personal pronoun options now, including they/their, ze/hir, ey/eir and the newborn, Swedish ‘hen’ . Recognition of diverse gender identities has a long history around the world, and neutral pronouns are language’s way of catching up.
So, where does this leave you? When you’re mingling at a party, heading up a meeting, or in school, just be mindful of the potential for multiple genders in the room. If you’re unsure of someone’s preferred pronouns, don’t be afraid to ASK. Once you learn them, use them every time, like you would for anyone else. Not being that person can be as simple as that.
Thank for asking!
Want to learn more? Check out:
Vocabulary You Should Know (and understand)
Graphic and following text from BASIC RIGHTS OREGON:
You may have heard the word cisgender before, but you may not know what it means. Cisgender is a term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender. In other words, ‘cisgender’ is used to describe people who are not transgender.
So why do we say ‘cisgender’ instead of ‘non-transgender’? Because, referring to cisgender people as ‘non trans’ implies that cisgender people are the default and that being trans is abnormal. Many people have said ‘transgender people’ and ‘normal people’, but when we say ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ neither is implied as more normal than the other.
Using the word ‘cisgender’ is also an educational tool. To simply define people as ‘non-trans’ implies that only transgender people have a gender identity. But that’s not true. Like sexual orientation, race, class, and many other identities, all of us have a gender identity.
Language is important; it defines human relationships. That is why it’s important use language of equality and inclusion.
LGBTQ* Privileges (or lacking privileges) You Should Be Aware Of
(following text from: Its Pronounced Metrosexual )
Following is a list of cisgender identity privileges. If you’re not familiar with the term, “cisgender” means having a biological sex that matches your gender identity and expression, resulting in other people accurately perceiving your gender. If you are cisgender, listed below are benefits that result from your alignment of identity and perceived identity. If you identify as cisgender, there’s a good chance you’ve never thought about these things. Try and be more cognizant and you’ll start to realize how much work we have to do in order to make things better for the transgender folks who don’t have access to these privileges. If you’re unsure of what it means to be “transgender” you can read about it in our gender identity guide.
Depression Phone Assistance/Support
Crisis Help Line –Any/All Crisis: 1-800-233-4357
National Adolescent Suicide Helpline: 1-800-621-4000
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8245)
Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-999-9999
Suicide & Depression Crisis Line – Covenant House: 1-800-999-9999
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (2433) –US, U.K., Canada, and Singapore
Gay & Lesbian National Support: 1-888-THE-GLNH (1-888-843-4564)
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Support Line: 1-800-850-8078
The Trevor Helpline: 1-800-850-8078
Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: (UK) 0121 622 6589
Youth & Teen Phone Assistance/Support
Child Helpline: (UK) 0800 1111
National Youth Crisis Support: 1-800-448-4663
Runaway Support (Confidential): 800-231-6946
Teen Helpline: 1-800-400-0900
Youth America Hotline: 1-877-YOUTHLINE (1-877-968-8454)
Youth Crisis Support: 1-800-448-4663 or 1-800-422-0009
LGBTQ* Websites You Should Know
Immigration Equality recognizes that among the most important services we can offer to our members and constituents are timely, accurate legal information, and access to quality legal representation. We therefore regularly update our website to keep readers informed of changes in the law. We also distribute a monthly email bulletin describing changes in the law. (from about us page)
Immigration Equality offers training, outreach and legal assistance to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender immigrants.