While some answer in haste, others have to stop and think about the magnitude of what is being asked. For some it is a simple tag; however, for others, it is an emblem of acceptance and belonging. When I think of the concept of pronouns in society, I recall one incident that stays with me.
Some time ago I worked at a school and was asked to assist a group of high school students with a group project. Prior to the session, the teacher pulled me aside, pointed to a female-presenting student, who I will call Alex, and explained that she wanted me to address them by “he or him.” I nodded. Alex was small in stature, had short hair, and was dressed in masculine clothing. The students began their work and I meandered around them, assessing it. At one point, I assigned different students to different tasks.
“I need someone to draw the map,” I said as I looked at the small group. Several students raised their hands, including Alex. “You do it,” I said and pointed in Alex’s direction.
“Who, me?” a girl said.
“No, him,” I said, nonchalantly pointing to Alex while flicking through a stack of papers that I was holding. The other students were shocked and many stood with their mouths open and eyes wide. Some, confused, looked around. However, Alex was elated, his eyes beamed. He smiled, walked over, picked up a board and markers, and began drawing the map. His elation stays with me because it reminds me of why it is important to advocate for transgender children and youth and all marginalized groups in general. Maya Angelou very famously explained that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My hope is that, at that moment, Alex felt accepted and acknowledged. I commend the teacher for her instruction and all of those who make concerted efforts to foster inclusion for all.
When I think of the importance of pronouns, I think of Alex and so many like him who just wanted to be seen as their authentic selves and live in peace.
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