You don’t need to be non-binary to make the world a more pronoun safe space.
The world is shifting from a cisgendered heteronormative past, to a more open equal future. But before anyone gets to celebrate, we have a lot of work that needs to be done to help many of our LGBTQIA+ siblings.
Keep in mind these 5 simple tips are not the end all be all, but they’re small changes we can actively make that can seriously pack a punch!
Here’s how you can be more pronoun conscious:
1. Work it into your introductions.
While you’re mentioning other useless crap during those awkward ice-breakers—like your zodiac sign or how many pets you have—make an effort to throw your pronouns into the mix. No I’m not suggesting this because I think your pronouns are useless, they’re not, but by including your pronouns in a conversation as simple as this, you’re normalizing the act of addressing pronouns as a whole.
“Hello, my name is Draco Rose. I’m a Slytherin. I go by She/Her. And a fun fact about me is I like pizza.”
See? It’s that simple.
You might be hesitant to do this if you identify with the pronouns given to you at birth, I know I was. But as weird or uncomfortable as it might be for you, imagine how difficult it can be for someone else.
Not all those who use pronouns different to, or in addition to, the ones given to them at birth are these shy and frail people many of us have come to imagine. Our job as cisgenderd individuals isn’t to hold these images and have a “do it for them” attitude. Part of normalizing pronouns is learning to not make them a big deal in the first place.
Our job is to make sure that whether they’re out or still figuring things out, they aren’t the ones always needing to take the first step.
2. Add you pronouns to your Instagram Bio.
So many social media outlets are doing their part to make stating your pronouns easier than ever, but like all things it was definitely an adjustment.
Before the update it was harder to figure out how to address people if they didn’t put their pronouns somewhere in their bio. The task was definitely more challenging when people, even if they were in the LGBTQIA+ community, neglected to mention them at all.
Now that instagram gives you an option to state your pronouns, in a space entirely independent of your bio, I highly recommend you use it! And while you're there, start building a habit to check on some of your old friends' profiles to make sure the pronouns you have in your head match the ones they identify with today.
The pronoun feature isn’t just great for pronouns, it’s also the easiest and quickest way to show others that you’re an ally to the community and that your page is a safe space.
3. Casually run your go to terms by people, your definition of gender neutral won’t always be someone else's.
This is one no one really ever thinks about but is worth mentioning. For me, terms like “Dude” and “Bro” are used constantly between my friends as gender neutral terms. My cisgendered female friend and I thrive off that “frat boy aesthetic”. However, just because I use these terms in a gender neutral manner, does not mean I can always use them as such when speaking to anyone else.
I’m not saying you can’t use go to terms like “Dude” or “Bro” ever again, but it’s important to be conscious of everyone’s preferences. There are people who wouldn’t take offense, just as there are many who may feel invalidated.
Figuring out what people are comfortable with and what they aren't doesn’t have to be some scary ass sit down conversation, just be super chill about it.
“Hey I know I use [x,y,z] alot and I just wanted to know how you felt about them? You’re not a fan? No problemo, I’ll come up with something else.”
4. If you fuck up, acknowledge it and correct yourself in the moment.
You feel like shit, you wish you didn’t do it, there’s no going back to erase it so do them—and yourself—a favor and just correct yourself in the moment.
Pronouns aren’t new but they’re certainly newer to our generation. We grew up in a cisgendered heteronormative society in which we were told vaginas equal girls, girls go by she/her, and penises equal boys, boys go by he/him. So much of what we were raised in is outdated CRAP, but it’s what we were raised in! Even my friends who are firmly in the LGBTQIA+ community have slip ups here and there.
The idea isn’t to use our upbringing as an excuse to misgender someone, the idea is to acknowledge that this is a process and try harder.
You made a mistake. So apologize, correct yourself, try not to do it again and don’t make a deal about it.
By saying something like: “I was talking to X the other day and she—FUCK! Oh my god! I’m so sorry! I’m such a bad friend! He was telling me about this coffee shop he loved. He even showed me a dope photo of the book he read.” You’re making the issue much bigger than it should be, and by overemphasizing your correction it feels more like you’re poking fun at everything instead of being sincere.
Of course it’s uncomfortable to mislabel someone but it’s more uncomfortable being the one who’s mislabeled. Causing a scene or making it a thing every-time it happens only increases the circle of fear already surrounding proper pronoun usage.
We become so afraid of misgendering people, many of us decide not to make the effort at all.
Instead of having a huge freakout, take a more calm approach: “I was talking to X the other day and she—excuse me he was telling me about this coffee shop that he loved. He even showed me a dope photo of the book he read!”
5. Call out others for mislabeling people, especially if it’s in private and they aren’t present.
If you don’t pick up more than two things from this list, at least make this point one of them. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your relationship is with the LGBTQIA+ community, if someone’s being mislabeled in a conversation and you know the person who’s speaking is aware of their pronouns (or if you know the person being mislabelled is out/open about their pronouns) say so.
If the other person forgot, or wasn’t aware of the pronoun shift, sometimes a simple, “Hey Sam goes by They/Them,” goes a long way.
However, if the misgendering continues, you gotta speak up. Being an ally can't be something you just slap onto a sign, you gotta do your part. The only time you should be silent is if speaking up may mess with the misgendered party's safety or wellbeing or if the person you’re defending isn’t publicly out/open with their pronouns yet.
There are so many more things you can do to be more pronoun conscious than the ones I’ve listed, but the rest is up to you. Do your research, read or watch other people’s stories, start the conversations and let others lead it, and above all, keep trying.
We’re not perfect, but if we all keep trying to make safe spaces where everyone is welcome, we’ll be off to a great start.
With peace and love,