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A guide to pronoun usage and avoiding misgendering

When it comes to starting the conversation and keeping it going there are things we can remember to apply every day.

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Post date: 27th August 2021

This Wear it Purple day, we are encouraged to start the conversation and keep it going – when it comes to who gets to be part of the conversation surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, everyone is welcome. It encourages a safe and inclusive environment for open and respectful discussions and reminds us of who we might be sharing our space with.

How do I identify those around me?

Members of our rainbow community, particularly those who identify as non-binary and transgender, have often been misgendered (both accidentally and on purpose). It is important that we take steps to avoid misgendering those around us, and we can avoid doing so by learning about pronouns.

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are words which are used as a form of identification. Some pronouns are gendered (such as she/her/hers and he/him/his) and others are gender neutral (such as they/them/theirs). You can’t assume what pronouns an individual uses just by looking at them. Using the correct pronouns when referring to someone is important because it affirms who that person is to everyone around.

What is misgendering, and how do I avoid it?

Misgendering means using language to refer to someone that does not match that person’s identity, for example pronouns (he/she/they). Not using a person’s correct pronouns can be a form of bullying and may be hurtful because it tells that person you do not respect them and their identity.

Misgendering of young rainbow people can happen as a genuine mistake, especially if the person has recently affirmed their gender. It may take some time for people to get used to using someone’s affirmed pronouns and that’s okay.

Misgendering can also happen on purpose, which is a form of bullying and not acceptable at GOTAFE or elsewhere. For example, a person might demonstrate a lack of respect by purposefully misusing pronouns or the trans or gender diverse person’s birth name (the name given to them at birth that does not match their affirmed gender – sometimes this is referred to as a ‘dead name’) rather than their chosen name.

They may also refer to the trans or gender diverse person as ‘it’ or ‘that’, which is highly offensive.

What are some of the pronouns people use?

To make sure we fully understand their importance, Wear It Purple have created a complete guide to preferred pronouns and how to correctly pronounce them (including how to use inclusive language when speaking languages other than English).

If you’re unsure and can’t ask someone’s pronouns, you can always refer to someone by their chosen name.

What can I do if I accidentally misgender a young rainbow person?

The most important part if you mistakenly misgender someone is that you don’t dwell on it and keep trying your best to get it right. Remember, not everyone will be upset with you if it was a genuine mistake - even if you feel embarrassed or worried you’ve offended someone for using the wrong term, name or pronoun – particularly for trans and gender diverse people. If you promptly apologise and have a respectful approach when asking questions such as “what pronouns do you use?” you’re creating a safe space for your LGBTQIA+ peers to feel more comfortable and confident to be themselves.

For more resources and information regarding Wear it Purple day and starting the conversation with young rainbow people, please click here.