International Pronoun Day

By Leslie McMurray, transgender education and advocacy coordinator 

I had just flown into Sacramento airport and needed to rent a car. I had a reservation with one of the major car rental firms and I scooted my bags in front of me as I waited in line.

I was scared to death.

I am a transgender woman and this was many years ago, before I had much in the way of medical intervention – I also had not changed my name legally yet so my driver’s license had my dead name and the dreaded “M” under “sex.” I got to the front of the line and the clerk looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Yes Ma’am.” That was reassuring, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

 I said: “I have a reservation under “McMurray” she asked for my driver’s license and my insurance. My driver’s license clearly had a picture of a guy on it. She looked at my license, then at me. Then back at the license and again, at me. She handed the license back and said:

“Thank you – SIR”

 She said it loudly enough to be heard by those standing in line behind  me. Now I was on guard as I’m keenly aware that not everyone likes or understands transgender people – some, dislike us enough to harm us.

 I’m sure a lot of people may scoff at the need for an International Pronoun Day – I think it’s safe to say that comes from having never been mis-gendered themselves. For those of us in the trans and non-binary world, pronouns are a pretty big deal. They are little affirmations of who we are, validating us and our place in this world.

Pronouns can also be assumptions – and for most, those assumptions are overwhelmingly correct, which can lead to complacency. Getting mis-gendered, also known as deadnaming, hurts. It stays with me. I’d like to shrug it off, but I can’t. I take it on and re-examine everything from my voice, body, clothing choice, hairstyle, every-thing gets nit- picked. Depending on where it happens, it might cause me to be embarrassed or it could put me in harms way…so if I was out with friends around a group of people I didn’t know and was misgendered, I’d probably make up an excuse and just leave. I no longer feel safe.

Pronouns matter. Is it a hassle for you to remember pronouns? You remember names, nicknames, addresses etc. Why should pronouns be a big deal when they mean so much? If you aren’t sure…just ask. I don’t know of a trans or non-binary person who would be offended if you ask “Hey, what are your pronouns?”

Using my pronouns correctly tells me you SEE me. It costs you nothing, doesn’t take any time and it makes me feel so good – I can relax a little, I can let my guard down around you.

 My name is Leslie and my pronouns are she/her/hers

For a more in-depth explanation of pronouns and how to use them please check out this guide by The Trevor Project.

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