Gendered Intelligence: Understanding diversity in creative ways

Language and Pronouns

What words we use to describe ourselves can play an enormous part in our lives. This can mean words such as gender identity descriptors, names, pronouns and the words we use to describe our bodies.

Words to describe gender identity could be words such as woman, agender, genderqueer or genderfluid.

But there are lots more! Facebook now gives users in the UK the option of over 50 words to describe their gender identity.

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are words which stand in for a name such as he/him, they/them, ze/hir, e/em. Asking people to use the correct words for you, such as your chosen name and pronouns, can be a frightening thing to do but can also be a huge step towards feeling more comfortable in yourself.

Asking someone to use your correct pronouns is a reasonable request and something that they should be respectful of. It is also okay not to know what language you want to use for yourself, and people should be similarly respectful of this.

Don't be afraid to try out new words

Part of the process of finding the correct language to talk about yourself can involve changing or experimenting with the words you use.

Finding the most comfortable and useful ways to talk about yourself can be a liberating process that sometimes involves trying out new words such as pronouns or names. These words can change over time, or fluctuate – for instance some people feel like using she/her pronouns sometimes and he/him pronouns at other times.

There is often pressure put on people to describe their gender in a certain way and for this description to remain the same over time. While it is difficult to resist this pressure, you are always the most important person when using language to describe yourself. This includes names, nicknames, pronouns and the language used to describe your body – anything that refers to you is your own choice.

Gender Neutral Pronouns

Some non-binary people do not want to use the pronouns 'he/him/his' or 'she/her' because they do not feel that these pronouns reflect their identity or because they are too gendered.

Various gender-neutral pronouns have been created over the years as alternatives to the English binary options. The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog has a list of gender-neutral 3rd person pronouns and a list of resources about their history.

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