Recently I have noticed the following parenthetical words cropping up in email signatures:
(she, her, hers)
Being what some might call old school, my immediate question was, “What is this about?” Yet, being new school enough to know that Google owns the secrets to the universe, I popped it into my search box and, voila! Google returned, “About 86,400,000 results in 0.45 seconds.” Go figure!
Quickly wading into the topic, I opened the first hit, a pdf file, to find, Preferred Gender Pronouns: For Faculty (Or, How to Take Important Steps in Becoming a Trans Ally!). The document was a series of questions and answers. The first paragraph explained what a pronoun is and what a gender pronoun is. The document continued with explanations of preferred gender pronouns (PGP), gender-neutral pronouns, and suggestions on how to respect an individual’s preferred gender, and more.
Since I am a woman of a certain age, my first reaction to this new style of personal pronoun use was something like, “Oh my! Life used to be so easy!” However, I quickly realized that the easy part was for me, and for many other – perhaps most – people. But what about those who spent their lives being referred to with an identity they did not own? And what about, rather than pronouns, they were the recipients of harsh slurs and epithets? Life may be more complicated, but it is, hopefully now, more just.
A few days ago, I read a piece in the Oberlin Review that expresses better than I can what it means to convey honor and respect to others by using preferred gender pronouns (PGP’s). I quote,
“My pronouns are not a preference. They are not something that I would rather have for dinner or a shade of nail polish I’d have more fun wearing. They are a statement of who I am and how I would expect to be called. I am not OK with being mis-pronouned; I will not be comfortable being called he/him/his, or ze/hir/hirs. It is not a preference. It is a statement. If you want to be respectful of me as a person, you will call me she/her/hers. It’s not a matter of what I would rather, it’s a matter of what is right. However, there are people who do not have strong ties to particular pronouns and may have a preference between a few that are acceptable; this is a correct use of this term.”
A favorite expression of my husband, which the entire family carries on and lives by, is, “A day without learning is a day lost.” As regards gender preferences and identification, sexual preferences and identification, and the gamut of related constructs, I will admit that I have a lot to learn, but I am willing.
Author Unknown, Preferred Gender Pronouns: For Faculty (Or, How to Take Important Steps in Becoming a Trans Ally!). Retrieved from http://architect.lgbtcampus.org/training_and_orientation_materials/preferred-gender-pronouns—for-faculty/download.
Hedges-Goettl, N. (April 7, 2016). Pronouns a right, not a preference. The Oberlin Review. Retrieved from http://oberlinreview.org/7855/opinions/pronouns-a-right-not-a-preference/.
Photo ~ “Lorena Craig,” by Howard R. Hollem at Flickr (https://goo.gl/3iQ5dO). No known copyright.
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