Yesterday was International Pronouns Day. This post is intended to be a precursor to a longer and much more serious post about where I am in a few specific aspects of life and what my plans are moving forward. Not that this post isn’t serious — it very much is — just that one will be even more so. And the reason this post is serving as a precursor is because the topic of third-person pronouns will be of extreme relevance to that one.
Anyway, I’ll begin this by reiterating the headline: My pronouns are they/them and he/him. To expand:
- They/them is very much preferred, especially online, where my gender identity is almost entirely irrelevant to what I say and do, except in situations where gender biases actually matter (which is outside the scope of this post as those are too complicated and convoluted).
However, I consider he/him acceptable and do not consider it to be misgendering me because I have always lived as, and continue to identify as, a cisgender boy — just one who was fortunate enough to have been immune to most forms of gender binning growing up.
Although I consider myself cis, I have very strong solidarity with the transgender and especially the non-binary communities, admittedly in part because I share a lot of the contentions trans and non-binary people have about various gender issues, such as gender roles and stereotypes, and conformity thereto. I’ve been told that this is usually a good sign that I’m non-binary myself, but this is not a coming-out post. I do not claim to fully understand trans or non-binary issues, and cisgender privilege and biases are a very real aspect of who I am today, which is why I continue to identify as cis.
But I will say that I consider the singular they/them pronoun very validating and it would delight me if you were to use it to refer to me, even if you know that I’m a guy. This serves a dual purpose:
- Gender neutrality, as mentioned above. Beyond a name my parents and God gave me that I love very much and simply happens to be masculine, I don’t go out of my way to present as male online, so except in gender-sensitive matters, my gender should otherwise be irrelevant to what I say and do.
The other big reason is that I’ve had a decade-long history of being bullied exclusively by other boys, and protected by girls and a small handful of the better boys, so this is also kind of my way of distancing myself from my gender group. I don’t want anyone to focus so much on my gender that they start associating me with the very same ilk who have threatened and harmed me growing up. That’s the most offensive thing you could do to me in this context because it minimizes the harm I also experienced. I have a relevant Twitter thread that goes into more detail on this.
All told, if you call me he/him, either because you’re used to it or for other reasons, don’t worry about it. I’m a guy and I own it.
In fact, I may be one of the few people for whom the phrase “preferred pronoun” actually applies. I prefer they/them, but don’t object to he/him. However, pronouns are not merely “preferred” for the vast majority of trans and non-binary people. If someone tells you their pronoun is so-and-so, that’s it. In much the same way calling anyone by the wrong name is misnaming them, or calling a trans person by a name they no longer use (or anyone with a new name really) is deadnaming them, referring to someone by an incorrect or obsolete pronoun is misgendering. To that end I’ve found “preferred pronoun” to be quite the misnomer, and I’m honestly not sure how it came to be.
Calling me she/her on the other hand is considered misgendering, but not only does it not make me uncomfortable (so, again, don’t worry!), but, hilariously, the only people who have called me she/her over the years have been cis women and girls in person because I’ve always hung out with them a lot. Heck, it happened again just last Sunday, and we all laughed about it. Meanwhile I only remember one less recent instance of a stranger doing that online, and even then I shrugged it off very easily. I think that counts as a cis male privilege — I assure you, misgendering anyone else, including cis women and girls, hurts them far more than it hurts cis men and boys. You gotta be careful and respectful no matter what.
Anyway, I will go into more depth on some of the aforementioned gender issues… when my follow-up post is ready. It may be a while, though. I’ve been through a lot lately. You can tell because I haven’t caught up on Inktober for almost 2 weeks now, never mind the LEGO Room.