It was International Pronouns Day this week. It has been on the third Wednesday of October each year since 2018. I wasn’t aware until the third Thursday of October in 2020.
Despite my ignorance, it got me reading and I have updated my pronouns to she / her on my LinkedIn profile, primarily in respect for transgender and non gender conforming people who are often referred to by the wrong pronouns. As I read this article on Medium about the impact of misgendering someone, I realised why I had perhaps been reluctant to do so in the past.
You may have noticed I have a gender-neutral name. Stevie is my birth name and I have been mistaken for he / him more times than I care to count. It is something I have become used to, so it doesn’t annoy me. I have accepted it and also fully recognised how it has opened doors for me: people are often more keen to interview, listen to or meet with the person they think is Steve (the man) than they are Stephanie (the woman). It is, unfortunately, the world we live in.
Even if subliminally, being perceived as he / him is something I have benefited from. Fast forward to 2020, the year I finally discovered feminism (for anyone else slow to see the obvious, it is about basic equality and not misandry – google it!). It brings to the forefront many sex and gender injustices I have witnessed in my HR career. I feel passionate about equal rights and have finally left behind any unconscious shame I had of being a woman. It is also worth noting that this coincides with my own journey of self-discovery and a greater sense of authenticity.
It might sound strange, since I have always been she / her in my own mind, but updating my LinkedIn profile felt quite empowering. As if I am finally ready to not hide behind my masculine name and can take ownership of my gender. We should all be free to have confidence in the person we are. This particular story relates as much to the name bias debate as it does to the importance of gender pronouns. As a white cis woman called Stevie, I recognise that I have a privilege that those with non-British names or non-cisgenders do not. Yet there is something we share: the need to rise above society’s expectation that we deserve greater respect and success the more we are like the archetypal white cisgender man. Pointing this out doesn’t make me anti white, cis or men. I’m simply contributing toward the conversation about acceptance of humans for being human.
If you have read this far, thank you. It may have been my personal reflection, or the themes of name bias or gender equality that helped you stay. I’d like to focus the rest of this post to promoting allyship by asking you to consider your own awareness, acceptance and support of the people that pronouns have an even bigger impact on – the people that have a much bigger journey to gain acceptance of their gender, self and identity.
Here is a helpful video on how to ask someone what their pronouns are:
The need to share pronouns might not be something you relate to, feel necessary or find comfortable. Distance created by an inability to relate can create barriers to acceptance. To shorten that distance, consider the areas of your own life or personal attributes that have at times made you feel like you don’t belong. Think about how the difference between feeling excluded and included has impacted you, especially how having someone understand your needs has or could benefit you. Use this example as a way to relate to the feeling of not belonging, or not being understood.
Writing this post has reminded me when I was first asked my own pronouns. I joined an ERG (Employee Resource Group) for the LGBTQIA+ community in my workplace and it was our first meeting. I remember giving an awkward, flustered response and feeling like an outsider for the whole meeting. I was grateful for that feeling: if you have privilege and are scared to feel like the minority, you will struggle to embrace the experiences of those who are. Please embrace that uncomfortable feeling as you educate yourself.
If you would like to understand more about the non cisgender community, here are some helpful websites:
Gendered Intelligence – trans-led charity aiming to increase awareness of gender diversity
Mermaids – charity supporting gender-diverse children and young people, as well as their families and professionals
Stonewall – empowering LGBT people, supporting companies to transform cultures and working to design and defend equality laws
The Proud Trust – Manchester based organisation supporting young people in the LGBT community
This is a bit of a different post for me, but essentially the theme is the same. Much of my writing on personal growth lays the foundations of acceptance: we accept ourselves, we accept others, the work better together and the world is a better place. This post broadens the discussion on self-acceptance to consider the experiences of others and how that feeds into the acceptance journey.
Acceptance of people who look different, sound different, think differently or make different choices to you. In a world where no two people are the same, we should surely be making more progress.