Alex Budzynski is a Campus News Editor for the Newswire. He is a sophomore public relations major from Fairfax, Va
With empty plates and full stomachs, the post-Thanksgiving dinner lull dragged on. As I was thinking to myself, “I really should not have gone back for a second helping,” my thoughts were interrupted by my name. A conversation about the semester followed, and I somehow began explaining how I am sometimes expected to introduce myself with my pronouns.
Turns out that what I thought was a rather docile statement was rather contentious. The semi-awkward conversation reaffirmed the old sentiment, ‘you don’t talk about religion or politics at the dinner table’ — especially the Thanksgiving table.
More than anything, the subsequent discussion helped me to understand how important it is to introduce yourself with your pronouns. While I know this is not the norm for everyone, let me convince you it should be.
Very simply, pronouns operate the same way a name does, serving as an identifier that lets people know who you are. Just like you would not want to be called the wrong name, you should not refer to someone else with the wrong pronouns.
Foremost, pronouns should act as a common courtesy so those around you know how to respectfully refer to you. Just like it would be disrespectful to assume someone’s race or class based on appearance, it is disrespectful to assume someone’s gender or their pronouns.
On multiple occasions I have been called ma’am or young lady on the phone or in person because I have a high-pitched voice. As soon as the person realizes they have incorrectly identified me, they, of course, apologize. The problem is that an assumption that was made, and the outcome is embarrassing for all.
Such instances have helped me realize that mistakes are made, especially when you are first learning how to navigate pronouns, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But properly identifying your pronouns can be a useful tool in minimizing such erroneous oversights or mistakes.
Additionally, it is problematic that I did not have any knowledge of correct pronouns usage until coming to Xavier, as is the case for many students.
For those of you who still are confused, I’ll give you the basic rundown. He/him/his typically refers to people who identify as a man. She/her/hers typically refers to those who identify as a woman. They/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs are gender neutral pronouns typically used by people who are transitioning their gender expression, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people, who will often clarify which set of pronouns they prefer.
Using the appropriate pronouns is something I have worked on during the last few months. I have made it a point to include them in my social media bios, insert “he/him” in the bottom of my email signature and use my pronouns more regularly when I introduce myself.
What I challenge each of you to do is make pronouns a standard part of your interactions. There’s no need to be obnoxious and tell every single person what your pronouns are every chance you get. However, it is so easy to include your pronouns when you are introducing yourself to someone or to a group, especially if it is the first time you are doing so.
In my time at Xavier, I have also found that pronouns are more common in certain spaces than in others, so let’s work to make them the status quo in all circles.
The next time you have a club meeting, include your pronouns when introducing yourself. The next time you submit a bio or write your name on a nametag, include your pronouns. If nothing else, learn your own pronouns and begin practicing them at Xavier so that eventually you can take that knowledge with you into the future.
Last but not least, all people deserve to be treated with respect. Someone’s pronouns should never interfere with how you view them. As members of a Jesuit university, we are called to be people for and with others who engage in cura personalis. We are meant to care for someone not because of the pronouns they use, but simply because they are a human who has an equal amount of dignity and value.
Hi, I’m Alex and I use he/him/his pronouns. It is not complex, nor is it difficult to remember, but it is polite. If there is one thing I was taught at my family’s table, it is that we should always be respectful.