A practice that has become increasingly popular has been to share your personal pronouns when introducing yourself to someone new. You may see it in a new work setting, an email signature, or even in someone’s bio on social media. Sharing pronouns is a way to make sure no one in your current company is being misgendered. It’s also a way for cisgender folks (people who identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth) to show gender-queer people that they are safe to share how they would like to be addressed.
Once someone has shared their pronouns or gender identity, it’s important to respect that. Misgendering is the practice of calling someone a gender that is not theirs. This could be by using the wrong pronouns, using gendered language they don’t identify with (such as daughter or son), or by referring to them as the gender they were assigned at birth.
In Canada, Bill C-16 protects queer people from discrimination based on gender self-identification. Purposefully misgendering someone repeatedly can qualify as harassment. Right now, New Brunswick is implementing policy 713. This is a policy concerning queer identities in school. As part of this policy, any students under the age of 16 require parental consent in order to be referred to by their preferred name and pronouns at school. This could mean that students will be either forced to come out or forced to use a name and pronouns that do not align with their identity.
A trans man from the Valley (name withheld) reminds people that trans people don’t choose to be trans; it is a part of their identity. There is a misconception that some people choose to be queer or trans. In response to that sentiment, this man asks, “What would be the motivation?” He emphasizes that trans and queer people are marginalized, and they face hate that cisgender and heterosexual people don’t have to encounter. “Usually, people who don’t understand and who are more radical even say, ‘Oh, you’re pedophiles, or you’re perverts.’ Especially for trans women or gay men… Why would we choose to be hated by you, or to be discriminated against?”
Accidental misgendering happens all the time. In a situation where you may misgender someone by accident, this man recommends you correct yourself quickly and move on. “If you make a big deal out of it, then you just attract attention to the person and then make them more uncomfortable.” He jokes that “If I accidentally call my cat ‘he’ instead of ‘she’, I don’t make a big deal out of it,” and advises folks to follow the same logic.