Words are a powerful tool that everyone uses every day to communicate, characterize, and describe the things around them. When someone refers to a place or an object they use the proper term to identify it. When it comes to identifying people, they want to be properly identified, as well.
Now, more than ever, people are seeing he/him/his, she/her/hers, and they/them/theirs, in social media bios and email signatures. These gender pronouns are the pronouns that people use to refer to themselves and are how they want others to refer to them.
Gender identity is a person's perception of themselves socially, emotionally, and psychologically.
Gender is no longer just black and white, male or female. Bigeye's national study, Gender: Beyond the Binary, found that 52% of the respondents strongly or somewhat agree that gender is not binary.
In the U.S., there has been a steady increase in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) identification according to Gallup's annual updates. From 2012 to 2020 the numbers have steadily increased from 3.5% to 5.6% of the population, respectively.
Declaring gender pronouns is something that universities and companies have implemented as a way to create a safe space for those whose identity or expression differs from what most people think of when discussing gender.
Gender expression is the external appearance of one’s gender identity, usually through behavior or outward appearance. This includes but is not limited to people who identify as "transgender," "genderfluid," "genderqueer," and "nonbinary." Gender pronouns are most often declared by people who are transgender or gender nonconforming.
There are mixed opinions about whether cisgender individuals, those whose sex assigned at birth is consistent with their gender identity, should also declare their gender pronouns.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, using a person's chosen name and pronouns shows mutual respect and is seen as a basic courtesy among many people.
“Pronouns are important because that’s the essence of who I am or who a trans person is. It’s how we identify ourselves. I prefer she and her. There might be someone else that prefers something else." Stephanie Battaglino, an internationally recognized transgender motivational speaker, trainer and consultant, told the HRC.
There are beliefs that the use of pronouns are harmful for society and they should not be used. Daniel Moody, an independent philosopher, believes that a person’s sex is the determining factor for how they are identified regardless of what they want to be referred to.
Misgendering can have negative impacts on those who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. A study in the journal Self and Identity, found that transgender people feel stigmatized and have lower self-esteem when misgendered.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are at greater risk for experiencing violence victimization and suicide risk.
The percentage of male LGB students reporting being threatened or injured with a weapon at school significantly increased 4.3%, from 2015 to 2019. The increase in forced sex was even higher, 7.6%.
While the number of female LGB students reporting suicide attempts decreased, the numbers remained stable for all other trends in suicide risk.
James Tinkler, a 21-year-old college student who identifies as a gay transmasculine person and uses he/him pronouns, believes there is no way to tell what a persons gender is or how they might identify because you can't look at someone and tell if they are cisgender or transgender.
"It’s helpful for cisgender people from both within the LGBTQ+ community and outside of it to include their pronouns in their bio as it creates a safer environment for trans people. It opens a safe space to talk about pronouns and it also lets those of us who use different pronouns to share ours without being the odd one out," Tinkler said.
In Bigeye’s study they also found that 64% of respondents strongly agreed that gender is defined by a person’s reproductive organs. The majority of these respondents, 72%, were male and a part of the Silent Generation, those over the age of 75.
While examining the impact of gender-neutral pronouns, a study found that using gender-neutral pronouns that included women and LGBT people increases positive feelings towards these communities. Subsequently, reducing mental biases that favor men.
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