Gender / Pronouns

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"Hi beauties. I have a friend who just recently asked everyone to start referring to them with they/them pronouns and I think this totally rocks. That being said, why is it so difficult for my brain to make the change? It’s been easy for me to switch from she/her to him/his and vice versa for trans* friends but somehow they/their isn’t sticking and I keep slipping and using their old pronouns. I feel bad and I really am trying but I don’t know what to do because I feel like I keep offending them."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

First of all, “Beauties.”

Moving on.

It’s hard because we were raised to think of ‘they/ them’ as words that are only used in the plural tense. That’s the long and short of it. There has not been a single time in mass media where “they/them” has been used to describe one person. It’s not like the male or female pronoun, that we see everywhere all the time. You can easily switch that in your head because you think “oh, this person feels more comfortable with this gender pronoun, so I will just switch their gender in my head because that is a concept I can easily understand” and BAM, you can start to practicing. Sure, you’ll mix it up a few times, you’ll apologize, have an open dialogue with your friend, but in general, you’ve been hearing ‘he’ or ‘she’ 60 billion times a day since you were born. Never in your life (this is kind of the fault of our society) have you referred to one human being as ‘they.’

The cool thing is, we all get it. I have multiple genderqueer friends who use they/them and I have absolutely fucked it up. But, this is new to me and it’s new to a lot of the world and we are trying. Own up to the fact that you fucked up and that it’s not cool, and that you both recognize and respect your friend’s identity.

I think the worst thing we can do is ignore the fact that we’ve fucked up. Ignoring it is kind of like saying it’s okay that it happened. Which, it really isn’t. It’s kind of understandable, but it isn’t okay, you know?

Own up to it, and go out of your way to actively use they/them more often. In times where you might naturally say your friend’s name, take a second and say ‘they’ right after. Instead of “My friend, Jillian likes iCarly a lot,” say “My friend Jillian, they like iCarly a lot.”

I HOPE I HAVE HALPED U.

Kristin Says:

I HOPE SHE HAS HALPED U TOO.

Here is what I have to say.

A long time ago when thinking about the difficulties our brains have in switching the use of pronouns for a particular person, the first image that came to my mind was one where I had moved my garbage can to the opposite side of my desk.

Stay with me here.

For several months, maybe even years, when I had something to toss in the trash, I leaned right, crumpled, and boom – there it was. Then, when I rearranged, my brain went through a series of stages. The first stage was legit just throwing the trash right on the floor where the garbage can had originally been, and then grimacing at what kind of idiot I must be to just THROW TRASH ON THE FLOOR WHEN THE GARBAGE CAN WAS TWO FEET AWAY ON THE OTHER SIDE. *face palm* This happened for maybe a week, on and off. The next stage was me having the trash in my hands and JUST BEFORE RELEASING IT TO THE FLOOR, realizing ahhhhhh there’s not a thing there stahhhhhp!, and then correcting myself, reorienting, and getting it right. That happened for a few weeks. THEN, FINALLY, it became a natural and fluid motion.

Now, I know that we are talking about pronouns and human beings and not trash and trash bins, but my POINT is that our brains are hardwired to certain settings (as Dannielle explained above), and it does take most of us a little time to make that shift. Many of my trans* friends have told me that they slipped up in the beginning and used the wrong pronouns when referring to themselves — so there is generally room and understanding from most individuals during this process. The point is to do your best, acknowledge if you slip up, and work toward the place where using the correct pronoun is a natural and fluid motion.

Dannielle is right though, it is important that you work hard at getting to that place in the meantime. This post isn’t meant to say, “ahhh we all fuck up no big,” it’s meant to say, “it’s okay that your brain takes some time to get it right 100% of the time, and since this is a very important shift, you should in equal measure forgive yourself for those slip-ups and work as hard as you can to adjust completely!”

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Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

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“I’ve decided I’d like to ask my friends to start using they/them as my pronouns, but I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. I hate feeling like I have to explain myself all the time. I get the impression that whenever anything’s different people freak out and have to know WHY it’s not like they thought it would be, and sometimes life just IS. How do I explain that to the people I interact with?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Tyler Ford as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Tyler Says:

I’m actually in the process of informing everyone I know about my preferred pronouns as well (also they/them/theirs). Here’s how I did it on Twitter:

Y’all, my preferred pronouns are currently they/them/theirs and she/her/hers. Please and thank you.

They/them/theirs as in: I love Tyler. They’re a great person. I saw them yesterday and they were wearing a really cute coat.

That’s it. I’m not into explaining my gender identity to anyone. I don’t feel it’s necessary. I know who I am and I’m happy with myself and that’s what matters to me. You don’t have to explain yourself either. And if you do, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to disclose. You don’t need to go into your entire life story about how you came to realize you wanted to be referred to by a different set of pronouns. Maybe it’ll suffice for you to say, “these are the pronouns I feel suit me best and they’re also the pronouns that make me the most comfortable.” All you need to do is speak your truth, no matter how elaborate or concise. I’m not saying everyone is going to get it right all the time, and I’m not saying it won’t be a difficult adjustment for some (possibly including yourself), but friends are friends because they support you and love you and want to make you comfortable. Over time (as with all things, these discussions take practice), you’ll get a better grasp on how you want to address the topic with friends, family, and strangers, and it’ll all get easier and easier to discuss. You already seem pretty comfortable with yourself, and that’s half the battle.

All my support,

Tyler

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Click through to read more about Tyler and our other Second Opinions panelists!

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"Guys! Some of my best friends have reproduced and the little one is to be born next spring! Half of the soon to be parents refers to me as "brother" and I’m a gender-nonconforming lady. It’s been determined that kid will be my niece/nephew. What are some alternative suggestions to aunt/uncle?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

“Can Harrison call me Auntie Uncle” – Actual text I sent my friend in spring of 2013.

HERE IS THE THING. Make it up. Those words don’t really mean anything anyway. Think of all the names we have for our grandparents; nana, pawpaw, ma-maw, pa-paw rick, mommy squirt, daddy jim, grandma roberts… THESE ARE ALL NAMES I’VE CALLED ACTUAL GRANDPARENT FIGURES OF MINE. These words make no sense.

I think you should 100% embrace the fact that you get to come up with something all your own. My bff is gonna have her kids call HER mom “cooter” … COOTER. It’s hysterical and the best. If I were in your situation I might have them call me Nacky. I just made it up, it means nothing, it’s not a word, and for some reason I love it.

Kristin, your kids are calling me Nacky.

Kristin Says:

Yes, yes, yes. This is awesome, and I agree whole-heartedly with DannielleNacky.

The beauty of kids is that they learn what we teach them — and so whatever it is that you want to be called will literally be how that tiny one thinks of you in their tiny brain. KIDS ARE SO MALLEABLE AND PERFECT.

Okay, so here are some adorable, gender-nonconforming name ideas for your soon to be niece/nephew/squirt:

– Zii {Your Name} or ZeeZee – I think “Zii” or “Ze” or however you choose to spell it, could be kind of cool. I found out that the plural of “aunt” or “uncle” in Italian in Zie/Zii, and also a gender-neutral pronoun is “Ze” – and ZEE is a fun and easy thing for babies to say… so maybe?!

– Puppy – I am reading a book by Neil Gaiman at the moment where one of the nicknames is “Puppy,” and I find it to be adorable and sweet and like… imagine that tiny baby calls you their PUPPY?!??!

– Shithead – Listen, Sorry… I just. I started thinking about this movie where Steve Martin has a dog named Shithead and it’s my favorite thing ever and then I pictured a two year old crying and being like, “BUT I DON’T WANT SHITHEAD TO GO HOME!” having absolutely no understanding of the fact that they were saying anything abnormal and it made me laugh at the breakfast table and then I was like, “People will get mad at me if I suggest it,” and then I was like, “Fuck it, it’s funny,” and now here we are.

– {Your Name As Pronounced By A Tiny Baby} – Kids generally try to say a person’s name for the first time and wind up creating an incredibly hilarious and amazing nickname that is endearing and perfect… so maybe you let them have a go at it once they become a mumblin’ squirt? My sister called me Nin-nin when she was tiny and most of my cousins and my grandma still refer to me as Nin-nin… also one of my friends is named Mary and her neice calls here Meanie. So.

Also congratulations and that is so exciting!!!! BABIES YOU GUYS!

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"I am legally changing my name due to gender discomfort with my assigned one. My best friend of many years has expressed intense discomfort and non-support. She said she hates my taken name, would not call me anything going forward, and then repeatedly called me my assigned name without apology. Obviously she doesn’t understand, and I don’t know what to do."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

It doesn’t sound to me like this person could possible qualify as your ‘best friend’ … unless, of course, ‘best friend’ TO YOU actually means ‘WORST FRIEND.’

I read a lot of books about success, focus, getting what you want, staying positive, etc etc. All of them, without fail, will have a chapter on how the people in your life can affect you. Think about the people in your life who don’t treat you well, make you feel bad about yourself, make you feel stupid, give you no respect, lower your self-esteem… Seeing them ONCE can ruin your entire day, talking to them ONCE can put a black cloud over your entire week, interacting with them ONCE can you leave your mind numb for an entire month. Is that really worth it?

Cut this person out of your life. You absolutely SHOULD NOT be surrounded with people that don’t treat you with the respect, love, and support you deserve. You might think ‘oh man, cutting this person out of my life is going to be hard’ but you guys SPOILER ALERT: life is hard.

Do what you have to do to be happy. Get rid of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in your life that makes you the opposite of happy and be confident that you should have so much more because you absolutely, without a doubt, deserve the entire world.

Kristin Says:

When I finished reading your question my very first thought was, “That is NOT a best friend.” Turns out that was also Dannielle’s first sentence… which means you have a unanimous decision from Everyone Is Gay: this person is not treating you with the respect that we should have for a stranger, let alone for our closest friends.

I think you should write her a letter. The letter should explain, one more time, how you felt in relation to your gender over the past however-many-years. It should explain that you – just like any other person – need the support and understanding of those around you. It should explain that you always are willing and ready to talk to her about questions or things that might confuse her. It should explain that you can no longer surround yourself with people who do not have the respect to value you as the person you are. It should be signed not with your assigned name, but withyour name.

Perhaps the finality of the whole thing will wake her up. Perhaps it won’t. I agree 100% with Dannielle, though, if she continues to disrespect you and continues to hurt you – you have to cut her out of your life. Trust me when I tell you that no best friend would ever, ever make you feel this way.

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