Gender Pronouns! Why does it matter?
I am 41, I know who I am and I am not here to tell anyone who they are. I am a 41yo GenderQueer Androgyne that also identifies as a butch, a lesbian, a woman, a trans man, a man, a mother, a father, a drag king, a monk, and reluctantly a shaman. I am a dynamic human being. I often feel like I don’t fit into most of these completely. I ask that you call me Hollis, most people do. I ask that when you are referring to me that you please use gender neutral pronouns. If you respect me, you will. If you don’t use those pronouns I see it as a disrespect. When I ask someone to respect my gender pronouns, repeatedly, I get frustrated when they make NO attempt to change their pronouns and DO NOT APOLOGIZE. Some people are very respectful even though they struggle with using the appropriate pronouns with me. Often a respectful friend will use “she” instead of something neutral, but will immediately correct themselves or apologize. I can see they are making an effort. I often say “If you she me now, that’s ok, please just He me later.” I am trying to help them get it and not feel horrible every single time they make a mistake. This way we can make progress towards language inclusivity. Other people that are very awake to the impact of gender pronouns will even HE me to balance for all the she I get. Both are wrong, both are right. The issue is that I get SHE about 90% of the time, leaving He about 10% of time, usually from someone trying to even the score or in drag. I am grateful for the HE that I get as it helps, a lot. I really need neutral pronouns but I understand that we are in an evolutionary transition with gender pronouns.
Then there are gender pronoun perpetrators. They don’t hear themselves use it, but I DO! They do it over and over, even if I ask them nicely not to. Some do it very intentionally or just don’t care what I have asked for. I try to make it ok for them to transition and forgive them immediately, they know not what they do. There is room for a transition and mistakes but that is different than NO ATTEMPT and a straight out disrespect. Its clear when its intentional or they just make NO ATTEMPT and ignore my request. Often, I am met with resistance as if asking for someone to respect my gender pronouns is like a personal challenge on the perpetrators gender. I am not out to challenge the perpetrators gender, I am asking for the perpetrator to respect who I am. By perpetrator I mean someone who ignores my gender pronouns request or intentionally uses “SHE” pronouns with the intention to challenge me. It happens, a lot, even in spiritual community. I have had many types of gender perpetrators and I often stand up to them, face 2 face, even if its hard. I have to, its my divine path, I cannot ignore it. To ignore it would be like abandoning myself and all those who find themselves gender variant. I must stand up for myself but it can become very challenging when that person wears the face of a friend, of course its hard for me to see them as friend when they become gender perpetrators. I am relieved when someone apologizes and tells me they are trying to change. I understand since I myself had to transition my language, but here’s my dilemma. If my perpetrator “friend” whom I have already asked to use neutral pronouns introduces me or talks about me with “SHE” pronouns they teach that to my potential new friend. Then that new person assumes I like “SHE” even though I have already asked the perpetrator to use neutral pronouns, than as a result my new friend ends up using “SHE” for me. It becomes like a flu. Its passed around faster than I can do anything about it. Then I have more work to do plus I have to handle the perpetrator. If instead they used “they” or even “he” or even “she/he” they could help me by showing my new friend that I am a genderqueer/androgyne. It also shows them that everyone uses those gender pronouns with me, so can they, and that its socially acceptable. My partner does this with great success and many people that hear my partner talk about me, know right off even without meeting me that I prefer different pronouns. Some people will even ask her because they see my female body, then she can explain. The work of our allies is never taken for granted as it takes such a burden off our shoulders. Thank you to everyone that works as an ally to gender variant people.
I have also been asked, “Why does it matter?” My answer is simple, “It’s respectful to respect who I am.” I feel like neither of the available pronouns fit who I am and I have heard many others agree with me on this. We call ourselves GenderQueer, Gender Variant, Transgender, and Androgynes. There is a large percentage of young people moving away from the gender binary all together, we call this Gender Non-conforming or Gender Variant. This is an umbrella term and often includes many transgender people. Some of us choose to deal with it with synthetic hormones or surgery but I don’t want the health risks that come with that choice. I don’t think I am the one that needs to change, there is nothing WRONG with gender variance.
The part that is challenging in our culture is not the person with variant gender. Our culture could use a gender evolution in order to create more gender equality and likely greatly reduce the incidents of rape. Most of us would agree that it would be a better world with more equality and less rape/molestation. There are many Gender Variant people in the world and instead of them putting themselves through risky changes to be accepted don’t you think we could just love them the way they are? I am not asking anyone to change their own identity, just please use respectful words for people that ask for it. Don’t judge, Love!
The other challenge people, especially earth religion people, like to bring to me is about ’emodying both genders as the divine feminine and divine masculine’ and I have thought a lot about this challenge. Simply if you think you constantly embody both and want to identify as an Androgyne, then you are an androgyne. If its not that important to you to make a third option in the evolutionary human race, than that’s fine, too. Please though, please respect my gender pronouns. I feel as though another option in our language would greatly reduce the suicide rate among gender variant youth that are coming out of college right now. Many of them experience gender dysphoria, a psychological term to explain what happens to us. Here is an example of my own gender dysphoria.
Traveling and at work I am often met with “she” because that’s the old way. To correct them is a lot of work and to explain could be met with strong resistance, violence and even my death. I am not exaggerating with the violence and death, check out this link to about violence with transgender people. If I don’t ever get to hear a “HE” and only hear “SHE” I begin to experience deep depression, a sense of not belonging. Every time someone uses “SHE” for me it feels like a stab in the head or a punch in the belly. I take it over and over again. I have found myself in such a deep depression, especially before I did all this speaking out, that I found suicide to be a more optimal choice. When I experience heavy gender dysphoria I often feel like I don’t belong in the world, like there is no word to explain me. I am so “out there”. There is no space for me in this world with my gender dysphoria. No one cares what or who I am. No one cares enough to change their language, I am not important enough. That is the message I hear. This feeling happens to most gender variant people as they become awakened. This is why transgender people go to such extremes to transition their bodies, even with the health risks. Just like this person who was recently granted “gender non-conforming” on their birth certificate.
When I speak at colleges I am greeted with open and welcoming arms for my gender variance message, its no problem to have gender neutral bathrooms and certainly easy to respect my pronouns. In fact everyone speaks their pronouns right way when meeting someone new. Example: “Hi I am Hollis, please use neutral pronouns for me.” Unfortunately when I speak to young genderqueers they have NO HOPE for our culture, that its “not worth asking for gender pronouns” because genderqueers don’t really matter and older people will never understand. You can hear the depression and suicide from their gender dysphoria ringing in their words. My heart is ripped out as I watch young people struggle with this. Do you know the suicide rate among transgender youth is above 50%?
Regardless of my own feelings I must do something for the young people coming behind me, no need for them to suffer any longer. My fellow gender variant kin I speak for you, I ask the cashier for you, I ask my spiritual community so they are ready for you. I am awakened enough to know that many of you are shamans and will eventually arrive in these communities, they already have began.
The other part I can offer you is how I survive my gender dysphoria. This is how I have found peace in my daily life with it. I have asked my partner to use gender neutral or male pronouns with me, and she does. I have explained that when she uses male pronouns or calls me a boi she soothes the gender dysphoria from all the “SHE” pronouns in my public life. Although I have began to correct complete strangers when I feel brave and like its safe space. I ask my spiritual community to use gender neutral pronouns, speak my story when I can, stand up for quieter gender variant folks, express my masculine in drag, and of course writing articles like this. All I am saying is that be aware of your language because every time you “SHE” me you contribute to my personal gender dysphoria. I will not commit suicide, that’s no longer an option. My option is to only call you on it in the most gentle way I can in hopes that the perpetrator won’t take it personally but instead will simply apologize and not continue to call me a “SHE”. When I do call people on it I am pulling from my most brave space. Please understand that I am coming from a peaceful, scared, and loving space. I am also coming from an imbalance in our culture and am experiencing gender dysphoria which is very painful and depressing, so I might sound angry or hurt. Please understand that when you disrespect someone’s pronouns you disrespect them and I am sure you don’t intend to.
Then the other thing is the excuse that “Well I been talking like this forever you can’t expect me to just change for you.” I am not asking you to change for ME, I am asking you to change for ME and everyone LIKE me. This is a very self centered place to speak from since the perpetrator in this instance has no idea what its like for me. I live in a world where there isn’t even barely a word to describe me and now the perpetrator is saying, even though I have given you the word, its “too much” to include it in their language. I am not likely to want to spend much time with the perpetrator if their not willing to make minor adjustments in their language to be inclusive in order to respect me and my gender variant kin. It is a matter of life and death for me and unfortunately I have heard this excuse many times. Simply, its very important to me that I have words that classify me as SOMETHING. When the perpetrator uses “SHE” with me it goes into the bucket of gender dysphoria that feeds my depression, its like poking me in the eye or punching me. So please its not as hard as you think, trying using she/he first, use both of them and eventually, after just a day or so of this effort, the perpetrator will find themselves moving into gender neutral language easier.
Interestingly, as I tell my story many others step forward for the “other” gender option. As an Androgyne many of them are in my spiritual community, no surprise since most androgynes end up as shamans. Many people identify with what I am saying and as a result I tell them, “Sounds like your an Androgyne to me!”. I validate and encourage. I stand by them and begin to immediately use the best suited pronoun, even when they say it “doesn’t matter”. I know better, it DOES matter.
A call to all Androgynes, GenderQueer and gender variant kin!!! Don’t accept that there is no word for us, don’t accept that its “too hard” because the youth coming out of college right now NEED safe space. I know you care about them or maybe you are one of them. Ask gently for your pronouns, ask safe people first to help you. As you get more and more appropriate pronouns you will find that this deep depression will begin to lift and as you see the light I encourage you to tell your story, when you can in a safe and good way. If you want to write your story or a poem or creative story, please write firstname.lastname@example.org I will give you a space to share your stuff. I encourage you to reach out to others cause I know I need my andro kin, don’t you? I know many of us struggle with our blood families, at this point I don’t see mine enough to care. They know about my gender variance but make no attempt to understand or respect it, but my family has much larger issues. Maybe if we are ever able to be around each other for more than a few hours I will bother to share it. I see my family in the spiritual communities I am part of, my blood has very little to do with my life. My son gets a free pass although my grandchild calls me “Gran Gran”. Hang on tight my andro friends we are evolving, revolutionizing, and helping to create gender equality. As we revolutionize pronouns and gender we can be assured that the rape culture we live in will begin to dissipate.
To the allies, keep speaking up for the quiet androgynes, genderqueers, transgender and other gender variant folks. We NEED YOU! Even if we change our pronouns 100 times, please do your best to keep up, be patient, and compassionate. This whole gender thing is very confusing to many of us and we struggle in a variety of ways. Supporting with love can heal our wounds. Ask questions and even identify your own pronouns, even if your cisgender. When a cisgendered ally speaks their pronouns and respects everyone else’s they prove that it can be done, even by people who are not gender variant. We love you, we need you, and we appreciate you! Thank you for your support during this profoundly revolutionary time.
(other gender neutral pronouns are celebrated and loved)