For most of us, we never even think of pronouns. We are cisgender meaning that how we feel in our heart and mind is the same as the gender we were identifies as at birth.
I was assigned female at birth and I feel and know myself to be female. I present as female. No one would refer to me as he, him or his. I’m she, her and hers.
Most of the population is the same, whether man or woman, girl or boy.
The rest fall somewhere on the spectrum and pronouns matter. A young child insists they are the gender opposite the one assigned at birth. “No, mommy, I’m a boy!” Or “Mommy, when will God come and take my penis away?”
These kids are transgender. Those of us who have known them their entire lives are used to a certain pronoun and name. Now we have to adjust to a new one. Parents who support their transgender child embrace this but it takes some getting used to. We may slip up and use the wrong name or pronoun. What’s important to the child is that they know we are trying. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to remember that pronouns matter.
The same is true for a teen who comes out as transgender. We love our child and want them to be happy. As parents, we mourn the child’s gender we thought we had and all the visions we had for how their future would be. Perfectly normal! And at the same time, we do our best to use their chosen name and new pronouns.
Why do pronouns matter? A recent study shows that the use of proper pronouns reduces the risk of suicide and depression.
If you have a transgender child or know one, think about how they were before they came out and how they changed after they came out. Many kids are depressed, don’t do well in school and may even engage in self harm. Once they come out and can start to live as their authentic self, most of that falls away and the light comes on in their eyes. They are more relaxed, happier.
If a child identifies as genderqueer, non-binary, gender expressive, their pronouns matter too. I’ve heard people say they can’t or won’t use they, them or their pronouns for a singular person. What difference does it make to that person when it makes all the difference in the world to the genderqueer person. It’s a matter of respect.
I see it the same as my request to be called Susan and not Sue. I don’t like being called Sue. Call me Susan please. It’s a matter of respect. It’s the same respect we show when using a person’s preferred pronouns.
No matter the age of the person, young or old, show them the same respect. Use their preferred name and pronouns. Pronouns matter.