Since the dawn of time, we have always had a mercurial relationship between pushing for our rights to express ourselves and resistance from outside parties. I myself can’t talk about pronouns without talking about the issue of gender because gender and gender equality lies at the heart. It’s no longer just a debate about men and women, but for all gender identities and pronouns. They go together like simpatico. Let’s face it: there are a lot of us, and that makes for a melting pot of diversity. Using pronouns correctly is a small token to pay in return for unity and respect towards all humans.
My identity has always felt different from the ‘norm’. As a little person, I used to make myself a bubble beard and moustache, and any opportunity I had, I’d be on the streets of my childhood home on my blue BMX. A little grub, can wedged between my tyre, the ruminants of lunch on my face. Back then, these were all considered ‘boy things’, but to me, I was just being free – a child without boundaries. I refused to wear dresses throughout my life. My toys, my interests, my mannerisms didn’t match up with my cute little redheaded exterior. I even had my first crush on a woman at age 6.
Now, I’m 35, and I’ve identified as lesbian for 34 years thinking I had to choose. It was clear to me that we all had to pick a team so other people could feel comfortable. It comes down to generational learning towards gender non-conforming or non-binary people, and damaging generalisations like “it’s a fad”, or that “they just don’t know who they are or what they want”.
Do any of us know, really?
Fear is a chokehold of perspective. I was worried about being boxed in and being labelled and judged, but since the change, I feel more myself than I could have imagined – and I’m still discovering that every day. I do have frustrations: every time I talk about my pronouns it feels like I’m coming out all over again. Especially when I have to explain my reasons as to why, or what it means to me. It makes me feel like I have to write an essay, be ready for my next presentation. That said, these discussions will only help me figure out better ways of communicating my needs, and of course, how the people in my life use my pronouns.
Some people live in a generational bubble
…And this shows sometimes. I think it’s important that, individually, we have a voice, including out in the workplace. I started a new job in mining three months ago, and it’s no secret that it’s an industry dominated by males. The first thing I noticed was that my gender option on all the forms only gave me the choice of male or female. The second was the use of “guys” and “girls” in every meeting. I tried to start a conversation around it. I approached it casually by saying, “actually I use they/them pronouns because I identify as non-binary, so guys in a group situation is okay”. Sometimes I mention my cute pin – and most prized possession – that I wear with my pronouns on it. For those folk with non-binary people in your lives or even when meeting a stranger, try offering your pronouns first, and never assume those of another. It’s absolutely fine to make a mistake, that’s what learning is. You could say, “Hi, I’m Flower and my pronouns are he/him”. Use them in your email, or your business cards. Pop it on your Instagram profile, or even on your dating bio. Using pronouns does not mean you are gay, or even non-binary.
Pronouns allow us to create our own version of ourselves
Sometimes we do things just because other people do, but this is not one of those things. Why don’t we just call people by their names, and why does gender have so much precedence over how we shape our perceptions of the world? Why do we believe what is possible or impossible is defined by our gender? And (in my opinion) why are these conditions so carefully fed to us by big corporations to ensure their existence and prosperity?
When someone uses your pronouns, it feels like “hey, I see you”. It’s the validation you need. It’s the green light to say, “this is me”, without the careful consideration of what could unfold. It’s letting go of worries and past niggles that left a chip on your shoulder. It creates an inclusive community, it allows a space for those with an unclear gender identity to be greeted respectfully. It creates diversity and equality. To be acknowledged, to be seen and heard is the essence of connecting to the people around us, and for me, understanding others brings me closer to knowing myself.
Traditional labels have boundaries that just don’t align with some of us. Pronouns allow the breaking away from societal constraints. We all have character traits – physical, emotional, mental and behavioural – so how can anyone be pinned to just two (male/female) ideas of who we ought to be? Pronouns give us the freedom to slide into whichever, wherever and whenever we feel like it. They allow us to create our own version of ourselves. Ever-changing, ever-growing, just as the human race has always done. There is an in-between, an even playing field… no preconceived ideas. We are all just energy contained in flesh, held by gravity, and each other.
We all have differences, but what is it in particular that makes anyone more worthy of the same justices? I think it’s fear. I’m proud to be a part of a community that is inclusive and loving as a whole. The world is shifting and it’s time to come along for the ride and enjoy what we have to teach each other. A peaceful life isn’t possible without co-operation. Everything we learn comes from another. It’s how we put ourselves out in the world that will change it.
So be kind, be free, be you… and I’ll be me.