Just like the rest of our identity, the pronouns we use are an integral component, and the importance of correctly using proper gender pronouns cannot be understated. It’s essential to pay attention when your child shares their pronouns with you.
Banti Jaswal, who is now 19 years old, can recall what it was like to be forced into a gender category that they did not belong in when they were younger. “After examining me, the doctors determined that I should have the female gender.” Because Jaswal experiences gender fluidity, it was never comfortable for her to be called “she.” These days, Jaswal talks about themselves using the pronouns they and them. Because of these pronouns, Jaswal can live as their authentic self.
“For me, living my best life as my authentic self means being free to express my intersex identity. I have the impression that everything is fluid,” says Jaswal. “I’m just a person living within this idea of binary, which is something that I don’t agree with when the world is fluid,” she said.
Your child might refer to themselves with the pronouns they or them, just like Jaswal. Or, despite having been given the gender of a female at birth, they might prefer to be referred to as “he.” The fact that your child wants you to use different pronouns for them than the ones they were given at birth may seem trivial, but the words you use do make a difference.
People’s perceptions of us are shaped by the pronouns we use. Your child will learn how much you respect them based on how you refer to them as a caregiver. You must pay attention and comply with their instructions regarding the pronoun that should be used in place of their given name.
What Exactly Is a Pronoun?
In the fields of linguistics and grammar, pronouns serve the purpose of acting as a substitute for an individual’s given name. We make use of pronouns such as “they,” “she,” and “he,” as well as more contemporary hybrids such as “xe” and “fae.” In English, the pronouns we use to refer to someone reflect who they are, including their gender identity.
Because the context of who is being spoken about does not require any additional attributes, the pronoun “you” is used regardless of the gender identity of the person being spoken about. But if we’re going to shorten the way we talk about your kid, we need a term that both captures who they are and makes them easier to find.
We need to instantly identify ourselves, our family members, our friends, and even complete strangers in an emergency or other type of crisis. This applies to situations in our schools, homes, and medical facilities, as well as those in community justice and law enforcement settings. The use of pronouns enables us to do that more effectively.
The Importance of Pronouns
The simplest way to show a child that you respect who they are and how they identify is to use the appropriate gender pronouns for them. This has the potential to affect their mental health for the rest of their lives. Having a caregiver who takes pride in who they are can make a huge difference for the person in their care. Research presented in The Trevor Project’s Research Brief: Gender-Affirming Care for Youth found that using a person’s chosen name reduced suicidal ideation and behavior by 29% and 56%, respectively.
Although they are relatively short, pronouns can profoundly affect a person’s sense of self-worth and self-expression. Small as they are, pronouns play an essential role in our language. If a child feels comfortable enough to reveal that they require us to use different pronouns, then we have already accomplished great success. What comes next will be the defining factor in who we are.
According to Goldstein, another important component of leading a healthy and happy life is feeling affirmed in one’s identity. “Feeling accepted, respected, and affirmed by the people we love the most is a significant component of leading a life that is both healthy and happy, and this is just as true for a child as it is for any other person.”
Pronoun Representation Is Important
You may have noticed that your doctor asked for your pronouns on the most recent intake form you filled out, that your boss added their pronouns to their email signature, or that your friend includes their pronouns on their Instagram profile. These are essential actions to take in order to normalize the use of pronouns and avoid making assumptions about a person’s pronouns based solely on their name or appearance.
According to Goldstein, “many people never think about the importance of representation, most likely because they feel like they are represented.” “The world around them is a reflection of the experiences that they have had in their lives. However, there are other people who do not share these experiences because the world around them does not reflect the experiences that they have personally gone through in their lives. This category includes things like pronouns. The practice of assuming a person’s pronouns based on how they appear is one that we have come to realize is no longer acceptable for various reasons.”
Goldstein went on to say that it is the morally correct thing to do to have the option of sharing our pronouns. She says that normalizing gender diversity is an inclusive practice that brings a better sense of belonging, as well as more loyal users, students, customers, and employees. “Normalizing gender diversity is an inclusive practice that brings more loyal users, students, customers, and employees,” she says.
It is important to honor one’s own personal growth.
Allie Quinn, now 29, went by she or her when she was younger. Quinn is white, nonbinary, and intersex, and only recently began using they/them as their preferred pronouns. Quinn states, “I didn’t think that I’d ever change [my pronouns],” and she means this statement literally. “Getting constantly called what I’m not was destroying my inner being, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine the amount of work that would be required,” she said. “I couldn’t even imagine the amount of work that would be necessary.”
Whether or not we should change the words that we identify with is a matter of personal perspective that ought to be honored. It’s true that language can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean we have to be.
According to Goldstein, “Using new pronouns can be difficult to understand,” but acceptance does not come from understanding. “Accepting something does not require us to have a complete comprehension of it. Love, empathy, or even just kindness are the emotions that give rise to acceptance. So many things are beyond our comprehension. We ought to make it one of those things where we can accept it even if we don’t understand it when it comes to new pronouns.”
Goldstein argues that it is even more beneficial for parents to understand the significance of pronouns in their children’s education. “We can comprehend how challenging it must be for a child to discuss this topic with other people. We can empathize with how it would make us feel if other people used the incorrect pronouns for us.”
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