OPINION: The importance of personal pronouns

Imagine waking up on the first day of school and dreading introducing yourself to all the unknown people in your classes. With a name you use with friends and the one on the attendance sheet being complete opposites of each other.

The classes with no familiar faces scare you the most. Your stomach aches as you sit through attendance. The name you despise hanging over your head, waiting to ruin your day in three seconds flat. You know eventually you’ll have to explain that even though legally your name is Mackenzie, you prefer Mike. Even though it says “female” you don’t feel like a female. You are Mike. But they don’t know that. And telling them is necessary. But terrifying.

Many children questioning gender identity experience a discomfort with their physical sex and how they are expected to present themselves to the world versus the gender they identify with and the need to overcompensate for the physical traits they lack. This sensation is called gender dysphoria.

Often those who experience gender dysphoria also feel extreme depression and high anxiety as a result of the stress gender dysphoria causes.When people with gender dysphoria are addressed by the pronouns they do not wish to be associated with, it sparks negative feelings and can cause the internal stress to worsen.

People with feelings associated to gender dysorphia are at a higher risk for self harm and suicide. With these dangers lurking within every person one meets, making it a habit to ask others what their preferred pronouns are is very important.

In school this can be especially difficult. Teachers interact with many different students in a day, but one teacher at PHS stepped up and on the first day of school, Math teacher James Bartz gave out a survey that included a preferred pronouns section. Although admitting the survey itself was borrowed, he viewed the question as a simple sign of mutual respect.

“I think right now, and even prior to all of life’s events that have taken place within the last year, I really feel like it’s important that as a person that I respect others,” Bartz said. “And so knowing the different pronouns for different people is just another way to show respect for someone. For who they see themselves as being.”

Bartz continued to describe how in society we’re all unique individuals and even if he doesn’t agree on certain topics with people, giving them a base amount of respect is what he feels to be right.

“I do know that the administration and the school district as a whole wants our student body to feel welcomed and respected and safe and things of that nature,” Bartz said. “… I do think that our school does a really good job in terms of trying to make those accommodations and we all have to learn and grow. That’s the point of education. We’re all trying to learn and grow continuously.”

Students support this initiative, and feel great joy when they see these actions taken.

“I would say that knowing everybody’s pronouns creates a safer and more inclusive environment,” Junior Molly Bogie said. “I think that people feel more willing to contribute when they know that their identities will be respected by everybody in the room.”

When talking to senior Sam Biely, he explained from his point of view the importance of the correct pronouns. “For me personally in my life, pronouns are a pretty big deal, especially the correct ones because in my life I still get misgendered a lot,” Biely said. “It’s pretty common especially in my family, so being around people who know the right pronouns and use them is extremely important because it makes you feel like yourself more than anything.”

“I think 100% teachers should start utilizing them more,” President of the GSA Meg Elyse Bierce said. “Sharing them actively makes it a lot more accessible for people who might feel kind of nervous to say ‘hey can you call me this’ and I think as a teenager, as a high schooler, school is such a big part of our lives. It’s seven hours a day, it’s where a lot of our friends are where our teachers are and if you’re constantly being misgendered and not using the right pronouns it does not feel good.”

In their opinion this should not be considered such a weird concept.

“It’s weird because it’s not normalized,” Bierce said. “It’s weird because you have to make an effort. As soon as we get into the habit of it, it’s a lot easier.”

Respecting people’s pronouns is important to personal identities. It’s about empathy and understanding that every person is different with a right to choose how they are addressed.

Visit this site for additional information about the importance of correct pronouns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email