What is International Pronouns Day?
October 17, 2018 is the inaugural date of International Pronouns Day, an initiative created in part by Luca Maurer of Ithaca College’s Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services. The goal of the day is to make the sharing and respecting of self-determined pronouns a normal part of our regular lives.
In English, our pronouns — specifically, third-person words used to designate individuals (she rode the horse; he cleaned the inside of the fridge) — are gendered. When we talk about one another, we use our language to make assumptions about who we are. So if you have a friend, coworker, neighbor, or classmate who is transitioning to a gender different from how you’ve known them, you might be asked to begin using different pronouns. Beyond that, some people find that he/him or she/her pronouns do not describe them and use they/them or ze/zir or ze/hir pronouns.
Respecting the self-determined pronouns of trans and nonbinary people is essential to being inclusive. International Pronouns Day is a step toward making our public spaces truly open to transgender and genderqueer people.
By Alyssa Green, GreenStar Staff
The First International Pronouns Day on October 17 was started to bring awareness to the importance of respecting the pronouns of transgender (trans) and gender nonconforming people. A number of us at GreenStar, aware of the presence of a thriving queer community here in Ithaca, have decided that this is a great opportunity to use GreenStar’s local community influence to elevate the needs and perspectives of genderqueer people.
Our society has an often tragic history of marginalizing people from gay and trans communities. As a result, those not in contact at some level with queer populations can have some reservations at first about accepting trans and nonbinary identities. When we come in contact with someone who is unaware of or uncomfortable with trans people, it’s best not to be accusatory or to “call them out” on what they don’t know. Even trans people need time to learn about what it means to transition and how gender and sexuality deeply affect our own lives. What’s important is being willing to listen.
We should all agree, however, that trans and nonconforming people deserve respect and affirmation, as do cis people (cis simply means not trans). A great way to build a platform of respect is to start by understanding that we’re all assigned a sex and gender when we’re born. We are assumed to be male or female, expected to be masculine or feminine. For some of us, these designations do not work. It is not a matter of choice. Rather, we feel sure in our bodies, minds, and hearts that we are not what others expect us to be.
Some people are men despite having been assigned as female. Some women were assigned as male, and yet know that they are women. Some people come to the understanding that a binary gender of male or female does not describe who they are.
Gender variance is a natural part of the human experience, and while some people do not have the experience of being gendered or sexed incorrectly at birth, they can still learn about the complexities and assumptions of their own society through the presence of trans people.
I would ask that we use International Pronouns Day as an opportunity to reflect on the presence of genderqueer people as part of a broader celebration of diversity. We come from all conceivable walks of life, and when we all value the richness of human diversity, we can appreciate the world we already live in through a lens that we may have not had the opportunity to experience. We all gain when our perspectives grow larger and more varied.