As a woman, have you ever been offended when someone on the phone called you “sir” based on the sound of your voice? Maybe someone said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” based solely on your long hair, not realizing you’re a man.
In those moments, it was important to you that your gender was properly acknowledged. It’s the same for those who are non-binary or who identify differently than the sex they were assigned at birth.
In 2016, a study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that half of 1% of Americans — or about 2 million people — identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. More people are learning gender isn’t as static or definite as it was once thought to be, making it more important than ever to recognize and respect individual gender identity. Using the right pronouns is one of the easiest ways to do it.
Generation X — those born between 1965 and 1980 — may have been the last generation wholly raised with traditional gender roles. Millennials — the next generation — are more than twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ+.
Man and woman. She and he. Him and her. Hers and his. Those words do not adequately identify individuals today. Ze, zir, zirself, hir, hirs, hirself have been added to the vocabulary along with the interchangeability of traditional pronouns. That’s because gender identity falls on a spectrum while gender is defined by the reproductive organs you were born with.
- Genderfluid — People who are genderfluid may feel a mix of both genders. They might be more male on some days and more female on others.
- Genderqueer — Gender nonconformists who deviate from the conventional norms for men and women. Some prefer to use the term, “gender non-conforming.”
- Nonbinary — The gender identity is neither entirely female nor entirely male.
- Transgender — Some individuals prefer the term, “trans.” Their gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Why pronouns matter
When we refer to someone by a pronoun — her or him — we make an assumption about their gender identity. That assumption is based, most often, on that person’s appearance or name. It’s not always correct and it always has the potential to do harm.
Using someone’s preferred personal pronoun is a very easy way to show them respect and to create an inclusive environment. It’s similar to using someone’s name to put them at ease.
The opposite can also be true. Intentionally using the wrong pronoun is harassing and offensive, just like intentionally mispronouncing someone’s name.
Republican state legislatures are making it easier to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. Laws have been passed barring gender reassignment treatment for people who choose it. High school-aged transgender athletes are being prohibited from participating in sports for the gender in which they identify. “Bathroom” bills restrict trans people to using facilities that align with the genders they were assigned at birth.
Making the effort to use proper pronouns, and taking the step to ask which pronouns someone prefers, goes a long way toward creating a more inclusive community. This is critical at a time when there are so many efforts to make hatred and discrimination acceptable or even legally protected as free speech.
Treating EVERYONE at AltaMed
AltaMed will never refuse treatment or offer a different level of treatment for people who are LGBTQ+IA+ . We are dedicated to the health and wellness of every community we serve, regardless of gender identity or orientation.
Our team is staffed with experienced professionals trained to withhold judgments and check assumptions. We provide professional confidential care and resources to help you live a long and healthy life.