An ambassador from LGBTQIA charity Just Like Us talks to DIVA this International Pronouns Day
BY DEE WHITNELL
We often talk about how to ask someone what their pronouns are, or how to introduce ourselves with our own pronouns, but we never really talk about the process of figuring out what your pronouns are.
Figuring out what pronouns make us feel euphoric and reflect who we are can be a challenge, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about it. But as someone who has changed their pronouns more than once and has been on their own pronoun journey, this International Pronouns Day I would like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way.
Take your time
When the pronouns you’ve been referred to with for your entire life don’t feel right anymore, it can be a confusing time and you may feel compelled to use any pronoun that isn’t the one you previously used. For me, adopting pronouns too quickly, or simply because they were the opposite of the ones I was previously called, didn’t feel right. Trust me, I understand the feeling of wanting to define yourself and find your community, but it’s always worth taking your time.
Try out different pronouns privately first
This is my favourite tip and something I have done several times. Find a private space, sit with yourself and go through each pronoun set and how you would introduce yourself with them. So, for example, “I’m Dee, and my pronouns are they/ them”. I filmed myself doing this so I could watch it back and see my real reaction to saying each pronoun – interestingly I could really see my eyes light up when referring to myself by specific pronouns! You can also write out your pronouns to see how it feels to use them in a sentence about yourself.
Trial different pronouns with a small group of friends or chosen family
Another great way to figure out what pronouns feel good is to see how it feels to be referred to by them by other people. Asking your close friends or chosen family to use specific pronouns for you in a safe space is a good way to trial a pronoun set that you think you want to use, but aren’t 100% sure. I asked my partner to try they/he pronouns for me in private, in our home and via text. I also asked a few of my close friends to use ‘he’ in private and personal spaces. It’s good to use a space like that to trial different pronouns because there’s no commitment, it’s simply exploration, and if a pronoun doesn’t make you feel good, you can drop it easily.
It doesn’t matter what others think of your pronouns
At a pace that feels safe and comfortable, try out your new pronouns for size in different spaces and with different people, whether that’s online or in person. It’s important to say that it doesn’t matter what other people think of your pronouns, this isn’t about getting people’s approval. It’s about trialling pronouns in public, or with small to medium-sized groups of friends, allowing you to see how being referred to by your chosen pronouns makes you feel. Then from there, you can continue to expand the group of people who use your pronouns, or you can tell everyone.
It’s okay to change your mind!
One thing I really struggled with when exploring my pronouns was that once I began using new ones, I felt I had to stick with it forever. I was worried about confusing other people or invalidating my identity. Regardless of how many times you change your pronouns, you are still valid in your identity and whichever pronoun you use. It’s okay to use a pronoun set for a few months and decide that it doesn’t actually fit. I did that – I started using ‘they/he’ pronouns for a few months, and though in those months it made me feel euphoric to be referred to as he, I realised that this specific pronoun set didn’t encapsulate all of me. So I dropped ‘he’, and people caught on quickly. I think we put a lot of emphasis on our pronouns, for good reason too, but sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m still me, still non-binary, even if I change my pronouns. We change, we grow, and new pronouns can be a part of that!
All journeys are valid
Regardless of what pronouns you go by, or how you figure out which ones feel good to you, you are valid in your decision and journey. Be kind to yourself, and don’t feel that you have to rush. When you see your eyes light up for the first time when calling yourself ‘he’ or the butterflies dance in your stomach when your friend calls you ‘they’, you’ll know what pronouns feel right for you.
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