By Eva Mandelbaum
A major step toward creating a more inclusive and loving environment at White Plains High School is making everyone feel like they can be themselves and live their truth. One way to do this is by encouraging the normalization of sharing pronouns with others. It can help ensure that everyone feels safe to be themselves and will promote a welcoming environment where everyone is called by their correct name and pronouns.
The internet and social media, along with an increase in available resources have opened new doors, allowing people to get past their own beliefs and biases. With just a few clicks of a screen or computer, it is now easier than ever to understand things from a different perspective. These bias-breaking resources have ushered in a new age of a stronger understanding and inclusiveness of all groups of people, regardless of identity. Along with this new age has come a world beyond “he” or “she”.
Put simply, pronouns are the words we put in place of nouns when talking about or referring to specific people. Examples are he, she, they, her, him, their, hers, his, and theirs. When talking about a girl or woman, words such as she, her, and hers are primarily used to describe her. When referring to a boy or man, people mainly use the pronouns he, him, or his. Not all people identify as simply male or female, though. It is important to recognize the expansion of understanding of gender, the evolving LGBTQ+ vernacular, and the fact that some people do not identify with a specific gender.
People who do not identify with a specific gender might prefer to be referred to by “they/them” pronouns. Although most people, including transgender people, identify as male or female, there are people who, “...don't neatly fit into the categories of "man" or "woman," or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don't identify with any gender. Some people's gender changes over time” (transequality.org). Gender nonconforming and nonbinary people do not identify as male or female, and often choose to be referred to by they/them pronouns.
The best way to respect gender nonconforming people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and all people, is to respect what they wish to be called. One’s name and pronouns can carry a stronger weight than others may realize. Calling someone by the wrong name or pronouns can make them feel disrespected, dismissed, and alienated. “Recognizing an individual's pronouns is an affirmation of that person. It tells that person that you recognize and respect them for exactly who they are,” shared Mr. Larson, Advisor of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club at White Plains High School.
According to a study led by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, the depression and suicide rates of transgender youths dropped when allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school, and at home (https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health/ ). Although this study pertains to names, the same goes for pronouns. If you are unsure of the gender, pronouns, or name that someone identifies with, simply ask!
Adding pronouns to places such as the end of a Zoom name can prevent the uncomfortable situation of misgendering a person. Doing so also allows for the opportunity to learn about one another’s identities and may make others feel more comfortable putting their pronouns in their Zoom name as well. It is a notable way to acknowledge and value self-identity. It provides an inclusive, fostering environment where all people can feel comfortable, welcomed, and like they can be themselves.
So, what are you waiting for? Go add your pronouns to your Zoom name to make White Plains High School a safe place for everyone. Add your pronouns to social media bios, tack them onto the end of your name anywhere, and normalize including your pronouns or asking the pronouns of others next time you find yourself in a situation where you are meeting a new person. By doing so, you will not only be more welcoming and inclusive, but you will be making a difference.