Gender Pronouns: Say Whaaatttt?!
Here at Klikd, we are seeing, now more than ever, our teens aren’t necessarily identifying with the sex they were assigned at birth. Some teens are choosing to transgender, meaning they identify as a different gender than the sex they were assigned and they wish to change their body to meet that identity. Others simply refer to themselves as non-binary, meaning they don’t identify as exclusively male nor exclusively female. And while some adults see this as a ridiculous trend that teens are pressured into from their peers or from social media (more on that in our next video), we, as parents have to acknowledge that the gender identity statement is here to stay.
So how do we as parents show up as our best selves in these conversations, and stay connected to our teens while we both live our truth?
For today, lets just get down with the terminology. We like to think that most of us try our best to respect gender non-conforming individuals, but sometimes language—and a simple lack of information—can make that complicated – and worse, hurtful.
What are gender pronouns?
While males and females tend to use the pronouns we’re all familiar with to describe themselves—he/him and she/her—some non-binary individuals choose different pronouns that you may not have heard of before.
A gender pronoun is “the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves” to describe their gender”. But even if a person was born with female genitalia, they may still elect to use masculine pronouns to describe themselves, depending on what suits their gender expression. A male may feel more female and vice-versa. Choosing the pronouns that reflect that feeling makes them feel congruent and authentic- that’s a good thing in our every challenging world.
And recently, more and more teens (and adults) have begun adopting gender-neutral pronouns—those that neither connote male nor female gender.
These people feel the typical male and female pronouns do not accurately represent their whole gender identity or expression. You may have a girl child who identifies more as male most days and sometimes as female. This allows them to be fluid (hence the term gender fluid), in relation to how they show up in the world, at an identity level. Neutral pronouns allow for this.
And lastly, though it can be confusing, some non-binary people choose the pronouns “they” and “them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her,” since there is no gender associated with “they/them.”
Non-binary individuals also sometimes choose to replace pronouns with their name and then use the third person. For many gender-confirming individuals, this simple change can be easier to get the hang of.
So, if you as a parent are struggling with this idea, think back to your own teenage years –aren’t the teen years all about discovering who you are, how you want to be seen and reflected as an individual? Maybe for you it was all black Goth, or hippy tye-dye, permed hair or hard rock – you had your way of saying THIS IS ME. So do our teens! This is not about a fad, it’s about identity exploration. Its normal.
So what must I say?? How do I use gender pronouns?
It’s important when chatting to teens to ask them which pronouns they use to identify themselves. You can’t—and shouldn’t—judge a book by its cover. Simply asking, “What are your gender pronouns?” is a norm in teen speak and when adults in their world show genuine interest, it goes such a long way to building love, connection and mutual respect . It signals to them that you care.
Let’s try not to roll our eyes at our teens (don’t we hate it when they do that to us?!) As one teen put it so well “When my mom says my pronouns are ‘too hard’ for her to remember, what I hear is she doesn’t really value or respect me as a person. She thinks I’ve gone crazy, but I am just asking for her to see me for who I am”.
The small act of using a person’s chosen proper pronoun can make all the difference in their day. And yours!
Love Sarah and Pam