Do it. Just fucking do it. It doesn’t matter what we look like, what our mannerisms are like, whether we’re out or not in separare spheres of our life, how long you’ve known us, whether you still think of us as our assigned sex, anything. If you respect us as people, you will use the pronouns we ask you for. If you don’t, we will be forced to conclude that you don’t respect us.
A lot of cis people seem fond of saying that pronouns are “just words” and that if they mess them up repeatedly it shouldn’t be a big deal because they still respect us and it’s just “hard for them to remember.” No. That won’t fly. It may be just a little word to you, but here’s what it means to a trans* person when someone who claims to care for them repeatedly messes up their pronouns with no sign of improvement:
- You don’t care about me enough to ensure my happiness and mental well-being by doing this relatively minor thing I’ve asked for; how can I count on you to do major things, like defend me from an attacker or fight for my medical rights, when I need them?
- You still think of me as my assigned sex and don’t believe what I have to say about my own identity; you don’t respect my ability to self-determine.
- Your freedom to avoid things that inconvenience you is more important to you than my right to be respected and feel safe.
Basically, someone repeatedly messing up our pronouns for months at a time and consistently brushing it off as a “mistake” that we shouldn’t be angry about because it wasn’t an aggressive act of deliberate misgendering—that’s the biggest, clearest sign we’ve got that someone who claims to be in our camp is actually not trustworthy.
Let me repeat that: if you keep making this “little mistake” and brushing it off when we get upset, we will be forced to conclude that deep down, you don’t actually care about our happiness, mental well-being, safety, or self-determination.
It might just be a word to you. But for us, this is a word with some serious weight. And if you truly care about us, you have to take that weight into account and respect it. Because if you don’t, what you’re telling us is that you don’t respect us. It may not sound like that to you, but that’s the subtext we read from it. This is why pronouns matter: it’s not just the literal word, it’s everything that word carries with it.
Pronouns are important. Respect trans* people’s safety. Respect our pronouns.
if you use arbitrary grammar rules created by white men as a reason not to use my pronouns?
go fuck yourself.