Gender-neutral pronouns are vital for respect and understanding

Take a step into English 101 for a second: a pronoun, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, is “a word that is used instead of a noun or a noun phrase” and can show possession.  

“ S h e , ” “ h e r , ” “ h e ” a n d “him,” are the most commonly used pronouns however, as times have changed, so does language, which tends to shift toward inclusivity.

Some may feel their gender identity doesn’t conform with the use of those pronouns. “They” is used as a third-person pronoun to refer to plural antecedents of any gender and, under certain circumstances, to a singular antecedent that refers to a person.

This can be confusing for those who don’t know gender nonconforming people or may not know how to use it correctly. Gender-neutral pronouns are becoming more widely used, so it’s important to understand them.

Gender is not binary, so instead of assuming one’s gender, just ask. You know what they say about assuming. Secondly — it creates an environment of understanding, mutual respect and tolerance.

In English, Mx. has been introduced as a title replacement for Mr., Mrs., Miss and Ms.; and Latinx is for those who don’t want to be gendered as either Latina or Latino.

Gender roles are what society determines are the women’s and men’s places within said society, and they usually lead to massively oppressive situations and conventional expectations that can lead to emotional trauma.  Gender roles make girls synonymous with pink, fragility, and domestication; boys are equal to the colour blue, strength, and stoicism.   

While these terms can certainly describe someone who fits the stereotype, it is nonetheless a stereotype, and so these roles have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Gendered pronouns can contribute to ruffling feathers at best and oppressing at worst.

Students and faculty should be educated on this matter, and currently the LBGTQA Initiatives chapter at FIU holds workshops on issues pertaining to accepting people for who they are and how they feel. Every conversation with the group begins with “What are your preferred pronouns?”

It is a simple matter of respect to call people as they prefer to be called.  Professors and peers, however, should not be expected to know what you, individually, prefer to be addressed as; and so it is up to you to make it known if there are misunderstandings or incorrect presumptions casted your way.  

Gender-neutral pronouns are important because they allow you to speak to and about individuals without making incorrect assumptions about their gender.Just because someone appears feminine or masculine -by your personal standards- doesn’t mean they identify as such.

By offering gender-neutral alternatives, we not only foster a comfortable and accepting environment, but also break down barriers set up by gender roles.


Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash.

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