The social media bios of trans, non-binary and genderqueer people often contain something along the lines of “she/her” or “they/them”, informing others of their preferred pronouns. It is broadly only those with a non-traditional gender identity who clarify how they would like to be addressed in this way, while the rest of us cisgender folks carry on our lives as normal.
This is a problem because the declaration of pronouns seems to be red rag to socially conservative bulls, resulting in seething intolerance for anyone who dares to openly diverge from perceived gender norms. However, I believe that we can change that – with a basic level of humility and solidarity.
Putting a stop to the agonising Piers Morgan-esque “I identify as a penguin” jokes, cispeople urgently need to engage in allyship by normalising the stating of pronouns. So it seamlessly becomes a natural part of introducing yourself; your name, where you come from, what you do, and how you would like to be addressed. There is no reason why this should not be the case.
If everyone stated their pronouns, allowing those with a non-traditional gender identity to blend into the crowd, the quality of life of countless people could improve markedly, with negligible inconvenience caused to everyone else.
I am a cisgender, straight, white, male, middle-class Tory. If even I can muster enough self-awareness to recognise the uniqueness of others’ experiences and make small changes to the way I behave as a result, such as adding “he/him” to my social media bios, then you definitely can too. There is no basis for defying this that is both rational and compassionate.
At present, stating your pronouns is essentially a signifier that your gender identity is somehow atypical. Unsurprisingly, that can be an undesirable situation for those whose relationship with gender is already fraught and painful enough, not to mention the fact publicly identifying with a non-traditional gender identity, especially on social media, acts as flypaper for the most revolting hate and rancour.
The situation is dire enough when bigots think it is endlessly entertaining to taunt harshly oppressed minority groups by screeching “I identify as a windmill” [pause for raucous laughter]. It is little wonder there are few right-wing comedians. Those feeble, ham-fisted attempts at satirising the gender debate so often conceal much darker vicious attacks on people because of the way they identify or present.
Fundamentally, this debate is about little more than a rudimentary level of courtesy and respect for our fellow human beings. Non-cis people are not trying to annoy or inconvenience you when they plead for people to join them in stating their pronouns. They are doing it because words have consequences. One of the most woefully overlooked ongoing social phenomena is the cataclysmically high suicide rates among young trans people and that hate crime against trans people has risen by 37 per cent. This matters.
To refuse flat-out to even entertain the notion that others might have experiences and perspectives that you, an unimaginably privileged cisgender person, does not is indicative of calamitous levels of single-mindedness and bigotry. An unwillingness to do something so simple as stating your pronouns irrespective of its demonstrably momentous positive effect suggests a stark absence of humility and compassion.
Privileged people like myself who identify as cisgender can never even begin to comprehend the experiences of by those who do not. We are therefore in no position to pass judgement, let alone to make excruciatingly unfunny jokes at the expense of others’ identities, and certainly not to hurl righteous vitriol from behind a screen. That would be like reacting to calls for environmental consideration by lobbing plastic into the sea out of spite. Why would you do that?
If stating your pronoun fills you with anger I urge you to ask yourself why the issue of gender identity riles you to such a great extent. It has little to no effect on your life, yet social conservatives explode with fury whenever it crops up. Is this not the same snowflakery of which they relentlessly accuse liberals and leftists?