Self

Why I Let People Use Any Pronouns They Want With Me

Photo: Nuchylee / Shutterstock
woman with pink hair

When people ask for my pronouns these days, I usually give them a ranking rather than a definitive answer. I say “I’m good with any pronouns but they/them is my favorite and she/her is okay.”

I’m not placating anyone by saying this — it’s true that I won’t get upset or offended if someone uses she/her pronouns to refer to me. They/Them feels more right but I won’t personally get triggered if other pronouns are used.

It must be said that not every person feels this way. It’s best to assume that someone is only okay with their listed pronouns unless they say otherwise. For many folks, their pronouns are their pronouns, period. Respecting that is non-negotiable.

Since I moved to a more rural area, I’ve softened my stance on my pronouns. This is a personal choice that I made, not one that is better or worse than other choices about pronouns.

As someone who identifies as an agender, the concept of gender doesn’t really resonate with me. Therefore, I don’t get too hung up about what people call me. As long as they aren’t calling me by my dead name or a derogatory word, I’m not too bothered.

My pronouns don’t define me

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For some folks, their pronouns are a core part of their identity. I respect and validate that 110%.

As for myself, I’ve come to a philosophy that my pronouns say more about how others perceive me than who I am.

If someone uses “he/him” pronouns to refer to me, I’m not mad about it. It just says that they perceive my masculine side more.

If someone refers to me as “they/them,” I feel like my androgynous side is seen.

When folks use “she/her,” I chalk it up to my petite stature, curvy body type, high voice, and longer hair.

I don’t like that stereotypes and gender roles exist but I can’t dismantle them singlehandedly. I accept that the best I can do is gently explain to those who are receptive that these features don’t have hard-and-fast meanings and ignore those who are not receptive.

Living in an area that has very clearly defined gender roles and expectations has made me comfortable with the fact that folks are less likely to perceive or understand shades of gray on the gender spectrum here.

If it ever becomes too much for me, the reality is that I’d need to move somewhere that probably has a higher cost of living to eliminate that issue in my life.

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When someone really wants to know my pronouns, though, I tell them

I’ve found that progressive people in my circle tend to prefer a clear answer rather than ambiguity. For them, I’m happy to say that my preferred pronouns are “they/them.” They’re happy to validate me and oblige.

For me, there is freedom in knowing that my identity and feelings do not shift with others’ usage of my pronouns.

Not everyone feels this way and not everyone needs to feel this way. There’s no one path to gender euphoria — everyone’s on their own journey to find themselves.

In a sense, I do think I’ve had to steel myself against becoming bothered by folks using pronouns that don’t feel as right as other ones. Perhaps if I move to an area that is more progressive one day, I will be less flexible on this. For now, I’m out here surviving and working on thriving.

Because of the way that America is politicized and polarized, it takes a certain amount of privilege to live somewhere where your pronouns are respected and protected in every interaction.

It shouldn’t be a privilege but given the education, viewpoints, and religious nature of my region, I can’t fully fault folks for not knowing better or doing better.

I don’t think it would be unrealistic for me to expect folks to use they/them pronouns with me, but it would get exhausting. I’d have to constantly correct people outside of my immediate circle.

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For me, the pros of letting it slide and appreciating those who really get it over sweating those who don’t outweigh the cons of it.

If anyone asks, my pronouns are they/them.

Still, if they use she/her or even he/him, I won’t become rabidly enraged at them. To be honest, I don’t know any transgender or non-binary people who would cuss someone out for using the wrong pronouns. And if they would, they’re the type of person who would cuss someone out over other things, too.

If someone wants to learn how to use the proper pronouns for myself and other transgender/non-binary folks around, I’m happy to give them some pointers. Still, if they mess up, I want them to know that it’s okay, they’ll get it over time, and I just appreciate their efforts. I have grace left to give.

Many transgender and non-binary individuals ran out of grace and patience years ago. That’s completely understandable to me, too. Own yourself, be yourself, and make no apologies or concessions.

It’s your life, so you get to choose how you teach people to treat you. No matter what your pronouns are, I’ll always call you by the ones you ask me to use and I’ll always correct people if they misgender you.

I’ve accepted that my community is not in a place to fully embrace non-binary identities and non-binary pronouns at this time. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t push for understanding and acceptance when I have the ability and strength to do so.

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Maya Strong is a professional writer who has spent the last six years blogging about relationships, LGBTQIA+, mental health, lifestyle, and cultural commentary online.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.