Here’s the thing, we’ve been sending emails, letters, and the occasional DM for years now, and signatures are nothing new, so why not add personal pronouns to the list of identifiers in your signature. I was thinking about this the other day when I decided to start asking people their preferred gender pronouns after having a discussion with a guy at Whole Foods who had his preferred pronouns laid out neatly on a button. The conversation was brief, but in short, he appreciated that I addressed him the way he desired to be addressed and that it mattered to me to be understanding of gender diversity as a cisgender male.
Gender pronouns, in short, allow us to understand that gender exists on a spectrum—similar to sexuality no longer existing on a Kinsey scale, but rather, a spectrum of choices. With sexuality, the binary terms of heterosexual and homosexual still exist, but instead of limiting it to those two categories, more and more we are finding that sexuality exists between and outside those categories.
In the same sense, gender occasionally begins with the assignment of our sex but it doesn’t actually end there, instead, it is an intricate interrelationship between three dimensions of the body, identity, and expression of a person. The body relates to our individual experience of our body and how society and others interact with us based on our body. Our identity is a deeply held and internal experience of our sense of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither. It is more accurately aligned with who and how we know ourselves to be. Then, of course, there is gender expression, which is simply how we express ourselves to the world. Gender expression is deeply related to gender roles and how society uses those roles to create norms and conformity. Simply put, these dimensions can vary greatly from person to person as we are all made uniquely and intrinsically different from one another.
Now, we have beautiful expressions of individuality that exist beyond simply cisgender women (she/her/hers) or cisgendered men (he/him/his); instead we identify as trans*, gender-fluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, and agender. Some trans* individuals identify as either a man or woman and use corresponding pronouns (he/him/his or she/her/hers), while others have fluctuating gender identity, no gender at all, or are genderqueer and use neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs or zie/zim/zir).
As complicated as it all sounds, it is extremely important to understand that the world is constantly evolving, and nothing is new under the sun. Every single day we are learning more and more about the wonderful people that make this earth more beautiful and diverse and it’s important to not limit our understanding to the narrow surroundings we’ve become accustomed to, but instead, try to evolve beyond societal norms and push boundaries in an effort to be more inclusive, compassionate, and diverse human beings.
One way, that we can all strive to be a little bit more inclusive (I’m specifically talking to the heteronormative cisgendered readers), empathetic, better human beings, is by changing our email signatures, text signatures—if that’s still a thing—and social media handles by putting our preferred gender pronouns. When a cisgendered person—or someone who is read by others as their identifying gender 100% of the time—showcases their preferred pronouns, it helps to normalize the practice for all people and makes you an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. The idea is that this will create a culture of inclusivity where trans* lovelies, gender nonconforming cuties, and those whose gender identity don’t align with how they’re publically perceived, putting pronoun preference in a signature can help prevent misgendering. It’s really just a small step into being a kinder human being that trickles down eventually.
The Giving Issue, and more specifically Tova and Wild, is all about giving back and recognizing that people exist beyond our small scope of the world every single day, and it’s no secret that trans* and gender nonconforming people face discrimination in all fronts, but especially the workplace, so it’s imperative that cisgendered people support their trans* peers. In reality, this is just a small way that we can show up for our fellow human beings in a small, relatively effortless public way.
THEN, just continue being the amazingly wonderful person that you are and send this article to a friend to hopefully, spark small measures of change for this beautifully diverse world.