Pronouns Are More Than Words, They Represent Identity
He, she, they, them. All of these are pronouns used in everyday language. According to Merriam-Webster, pronouns are “any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context.”
However, pronouns are more than this. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to pronouns. In recent years, the usage of a variety of pronouns has gradually increased. Pronouns are an important part of a person’s gender expression, and being aware of these different pronouns is crucial for showing respect to others. This is especially true for individuals who use pronouns such as they/them or ze/zir.
On International Pronoun Day, the Kent State University LGBTQ+ Center held an event honoring all pronouns. The importance of respecting pronouns was explained and a group discussion was led to further examine the complexities of genders and pronouns.
Colleen Dinan, a senior sociology major and intern at the LGBTQ+ Center, hosted this event. Dinan wanted to highlight the importance of respecting others’ pronouns and raise awareness about this international day of recognition.
“International Pronoun Day is super important because using someone’s preferred pronouns is just like a baseline level of respect that you should hopefully be giving to everyone,” Dinan said. “Recognizing the difference in pronouns and how that is someone's identity is how you can be respectful to them. It's a small thing that can be used as a stepping stone to get into deeper discussions of gender, identity and more.”
Attendees discussed the importance of recognizing and acknowledging the differences in pronouns, what to do if someone uses the wrong pronouns, what to do if you don’t recognize a certain pronoun set and how to normalize a variety of pronouns in everyday conversations.
These discussions brought up a lot of personal stories from attendees. People deal with misgendering or incorrect pronoun referencing in everyday situations. However, attendees agreed it is more productive to focus on the ability for anyone to express themselves in whatever way they want, instead of putting energy into those who refuse to understand pronouns.
“Just getting people to talk about it and recognize it is crucial. People have this realization moment where they realize they don’t identify with the pronouns they were given at birth,” Dinan said. “Talking to those people, hearing their stories and adjusting your own views is what this day is all about. At the end of the day, these conversations are going to result in you being more respectful to everyone and everyone feeling more comfortable expressing themselves.”
Learn more about the LGBTQ+ Center at www.kent.edu/lgbtq.