Wednesday 20th is International Pronouns Day. What a splendid concept. I have just popped along to the site and signed up Chrysalis as an endorsing organisation. You can sign up as an individual or an organisation. A great way to show your allyship.
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are used instead of a noun, a naming word. We use them in sentences to avoid endless repetition of the subject. The commonest pronouns are she, he, they (singular), they (plural) and it (for inanimate objects). English language, unlike French and German does not gender tables or books.
Why are pronouns important?
Everyone, and everything, has pronouns. However only people have gender identities. Our gender identity is informed by our biology and our sense of self. We use language to describe our internal sense of self to the outside world. In today’s blog I want to explore our concept of identity and to show how respecting someone’s name and pronouns is much more powerful than you may have considered.
What’s in a name?
At our training we invite people to think about their name and to introduce themselves to the group by answering a question. These questions, and their answers, show how many places of commonality we share.
Who named you?
Are you close to your parents? Is there a story behind your name? Perhaps your name is one from a long family tradition or it holds an important memory.
For some people it is important to show their respect and love for their family by asking their parents what name they would have chosen if you were assigned differently at birth.
What happens when people get your name wrong?
I am always interested in how some people really do not mind how people address them. Their sense of self is not tied to their name, to the spelling of it, to mistaken gendering. Yet others relate experiencing annoyance, frustration even intimidation through casual or deliberate misnaming.
When you have chosen your name, it is a clear sign of acceptance when others use it correctly.
Do you have any nicknames?
Names are powerful. Nicknames can be used to show love, some languages like Russian or Japanese have rules about diminutives and honorifics.
Nasty, spiteful monikers can be used to hurt. Names can harm.
When you are choosing your name perhaps you want to include some options for family and close friends. A different, or diminutive name for those close to you and a formal name to go with your new signature.
If you could change your name, would you?
When you choose your name do you want to leave the bad memories buried with the dead name?
Choosing, using, and hearing your new name is empowering. It gives you an enormous sense of wellbeing.
Do you own your name?
An interesting question, and one which generates considerable discussion and reflection. Everyone has a distinct, and very personal, answer. Our sense of integrity is as interwoven with our name as it is with our gender identity.
Choose your name
Now imagine choosing your name. Which of these questions would you need to ask? What resonates with you? Does your name describe your gender identity? Do you need to give people more information? Many people change their names for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps this blog will stimulate you to finally throw off some old rusty chains, or to better embrace your own sense of self. I would love to hear from you if so.
I hope I have shown you how much work goes into the naming of any person. Have I encouraged you to think about how deeply your name connects to your sense of self?
Transition might mean a dramatic change in your name, but a small change in your pronouns. Or a small, or no change in name but a declaration of new pronouns. For myself I chose my name back in the ‘80s. In doing so I started my own journey of self-discovery which led to my change of pronouns four years ago. I am still me; I have simply given you a new word to understand me.
Pronouns are used instead of a noun. Respecting someone’s pronouns is as simple as respecting that person.
If someone uses pronouns you are unfamiliar with then you will find out more about them through exploring what those pronouns mean to them. If you ask with respect, then everyone loves the chance to talk about themself.