My name is Jordan. I really like my name. I honestly can’t imagine myself with a different one. Becky? Veronica? Crystal? No thank you. I’ll keep Jordan. But Jordan is a traditionally male name and I was born and self-identify as female. I am she, her, hers.
Do you know how many times in my life, to this day, others have assumed I was a man simply because of my name? Too many to count. I could even tell you a story of how I ended up being the only girl at a bird camp because of this sort of a name mix-up. Or the time I couldn’t get help with my fraudulent credit card charges because customer service thought I was impersonating “Mr.” Rutter.
And everyone does it. Men, women, usually older folks but some younger ones too, have all assumed I’m a boy because of my name.
Here’s the thing. To me, a grown adult, I’m now used to it. It’s still annoying and irritating, but I can handle it. It took me a long time to get to this point and not make a fuss. It’s confusing and painful to feel like you’re not seen, you’re not recognized, you’re almost not allowed to be who you are because others don’t acknowledge how YOU want to be perceived by the world.
But first, I need to acknowledge my privilege here. I’m a cis-hetero white woman. The things I’ve personally experienced and felt when it comes to this are minimal compared to some other folks. Maybe more than, say, cis-hetero white men. Men with names like Bob or Matt or William. But my experiences of misrepresentation are the tip of the iceberg compared to others.
So, of course I want to advocate for gender-neutral pronouns, such as they, them, or theirs. It’s an honor to be included in this Quartz published article for that very reason.
It’s a no-brainer. Why assume someone’s identity when you can be safe and inclusive? Why not use a term that applies to anyone? I would rather be addressed as gender-neutral than the wrong gender. I’m also quite certain most cis-men would not want to be confused for a woman either (see: Lindsey, Lauren, Kelly).
Identifying your own pronouns and using gender-neutral pronouns in your speech, in your email signature, on your name tag, in your social media bio, or wherever doesn’t cost you anything. It doesn’t impact you physically. It doesn’t take much more time. It is a small, easy thing you can do. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it could literally make someone not feel alone in the world and help change truly heartbreaking statistics. It is kindness and consideration enacted in a single word. It is certainly not the end of the actions needed to increase inclusivity by white cis-hetero folks like myself, but it is a sorely needed start. So, if you truly value accepting others and loving your neighbor and being kind, then the use of gender-neutral pronouns should be part of your everyday language.
Those she/her/hers at the end of email messages are more than a passing trend