By Sydney Brouillard-Coyle
Using someone’s correct pronouns is the bare minimum for showing respect for who a person is. But true allyship is about so much more than that.
October 20 is International Pronouns Day. This day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity - it is about respecting and honouring people for who they are - in fullness. It is about breaking down the gender binary, stereotypes, and assumptions - and hearing people for who they are and the language that feels right for them. It is about celebrating the diversity of God as emulated through God’s diverse children.
The most common pronouns are she/her and he/him. Additionally, the most common gender neutral pronoun is they/them - this has been used as a singular pronoun since as far back as 1375 - so it is certainly not new! For example, rather than saying: “He and I went to the store”, you would say: “They and I went to the store”. It also helps avoid the awkwardness of saying “I can’t wait to meet him or her!” - instead, you can simply say: “I can’t wait to meet them!”
There are many pronouns beyond she/her, he/him, and they/them - this includes mixed pronouns (when people use multiple different sets of pronouns, such as “she/her and they/them”), and neopronouns (other sets of gender-neutral pronouns, such as ney/nem, ze/zir, ey/em, etc). Just as there are many different ways of being, and each person is unique - pronouns can be unique to each person and to their experience.
Respecting someone’s pronouns is about respecting someone’s dignity. It is about saying: “Yes, you know who you are, and I honour you for who you are.” It is saying to that person: “You are safe here”. If you genuinely care about the person, you will take the time to learn how to use their pronouns - just as you would learn to pronounce someone’s name correctly, or learn about their hobbies.
We, in the trans community, need so much more than that. We need allies to step up and start making pronouns a natural part of conversation. Introducing yourself with your pronouns (for example, “Hi, I’m Sydney, and I use ney/nem pronouns”). Including your pronouns in your email signatures and in your bios on social media. Asking someone’s pronouns if you aren’t sure how to refer to them (for example, “what pronouns do you use” or “what pronouns honour you”). Making sure to use people’s correct pronouns - regardless of whether or not we are there. And correcting others - and yourself - when a mistake is made, as this provides a valuable opportunity to learn and do better.
As Anglicans, we are called to respect the dignity of every human person, and celebrate each child of God as fearfully and wonderfully made. In our commitment to continue to create safe spaces for trans and gender diverse people, let us pray:
Lord, we pray that trans and gender diverse people can have their daily needs met - that they may find communities and chosen family who celebrate and honour them for who they are, that they may be respected at school and at work, and their full selves appreciated. Help us to better understand their needs, to honour their pronouns, and to embrace their full selves. Amen.
Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (ney/nem/nir) is co-chair of Proud Anglicans of Huron and music director at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.