By Sara El Halabi J.

We live in times where we can understand and accept controversial topics more openly. Yet, many still encounter cringes and stares when using gender pronouns that differ from the traditional binary terms.

As our society adopts the use of pronouns unassociated with biological sex, it’s important to educate ourselves on how to use them correctly and without judgment. Non-binary and transgender people still experience high levels of minority stress, sometimes even leading to suicidal thoughts. To create a more accepting and inclusive world, we must treat this topic seriously and bring more awareness to our communities. 

What Is Gender Identity And Gender Pronouns?     

Gender identity is the inner sense of how you feel about your anatomical gender and what resonates with you the most. Gender pronouns have an essential role here because they allow you to express yourself regarding your masculinity, femininity, both or none.

Although society has set the parameters to measure and identify a person’s gender at birth, sometimes the sex or biological gender according to the physical anatomy and the psychological gender are not aligned. According to Professor Michael F Mascolo, PhD, gender is “socially constructed”. It’s the product of a set of values and beliefs that encompasses binary communities.

In today’s free-expression world, gender identity has expanded to bring more inclusiveness to minority groups. This brings a wide range of associated terms, including:

  • Non-binary: those who don’t identify with any binary gender—male and female—and might be gender-neutral;
  • Transgender: those who don’t identify with the biological gender they were born with;
  • Gender fluid: someone who feels like a mix of both male and female, among others.

However, this minority group still encounters discrimination, family rejection, hate crimes, and more societal problems.

As society evolves and enters the era of digitalisation and globalisation, it’s also becoming more inclusive towards the diversity of races, religions, sexuality and genders. Acceptance of a person’s prefered gender pronouns is a significant part of this change.

The Science Behind Gender Identity

Science has discovered a relationship between gender identity and the brain. According to studies, the fetus can receive more of one hormone than the other, thus affecting its neural performance differently from its anatomy.

The genderisation process starts when neuroreceptors receive the hormone messengers that endocrine glands release into the bloodstream. Likewise, a wide distribution of sex hormones—estrogen and testosterone—occurs, affecting the brain, and transmits how the person will feel, act and communicate.

Sex hormones, which flood the fetus organism during the first trimester in the womb, will define its brain structure and the development of sex organs, determining whether they are females or males. However, sometimes these hormones are reduced or altered, leading to the attitude and gender identity not matching the physical anatomy.

This is easily proven when checking the density of neurons in certain parts of the brain. For example, someone who identifies biologically as a male at birth can develop a transgender identity because the testosterone levels were never enough to structure the brain with a male identity.

How To Use The Gender Pronouns

Using the correct pronoun is a form of validation and respect for the person you refer to since many associate expression with identity. Non-binary and transgender groups feel a huge pain when their family and friends misgender them.    

Stating your gender pronouns is not about preference— it’s about who you are.

Many people still don’t understand the importance of referring to a transgender or non-binary person with the proper pronoun. Asking them how they like to be referred to is totally fine and appreciated.

There are several gender pronouns, but the most common ones are the neutral they-them-themself and ze/zie-hir-hirself.

Here are some examples of using non-traditional pronouns:

  • Ian is a lawyer. Their portfolio is attractive, and they feel proud of themself.
  • Jane has a dog. Ze lives with hir partner and is happy with hirself.

Why Is It Important To Respect a Person’s Gender Identity?

Avoiding assumptions about a person’s gender identity can save them from pain and discomfort. Worse, if you use the wrong gender pronoun purposely, it can be offensive and harassing, and in some scenarios, lead to abuse or violence.

If you want to be more inclusive and respectful towards others, start by  following these rules:

  1. Ask the person about the pronouns they use.
  2. Apologise if you err in calling them a different gender pronoun, but don’t over apologise. Correct your mistake.
  3. When referring to a transgender or non-binary person, fashion them with Mx., instead of Mr. or Ms.
  4. Don’t judge or criticise them, assuming that you can make them see why they are wrong in their identity. Accept each person as they are.
  5. Encourage them to express themselves.

If you’re a non-binary person, be unapologetic and unshameful of your gender identity. But also try to be patient when you let others know the gender pronouns you use; some of us are still learning.

The world is changing, and hopefully, we will all be more understanding of our fellow humans’ journey one day.