Use of pronouns promotes inclusivity in schools

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Photo by Mae Skaja

The use of someone’s preferred pronouns can help them through a journey of self-expression and gender identity, but some still struggle due to a lack of education on the topic.

The evolution of language has been proven over and over, from slang to memes to emojis, and more. And this, yes, includes pronouns.

Pronouns are words used in place of a noun. Some people use she/her pronouns, he/him, they/them, some lesser known ones like ze or hir or a mix of all of the above. Pronouns exist so that people don’t have to constantly use somebody’s name when talking about them. In addition to pronouns,people may have a preferred name that is different from what’s on official documentation. A preferred name is a name different from someone’s biological name. The most common instance of this would be someone who is transgender, whose “dead name” is what is on their birth certificate, whereas their preferred name is what they currently go by.

“Pronouns are an important way to share one’s identity and how individuals would like to be addressed,” choir teacher at Columbia Heights High School (CHHS), Mr. Nicholas Hollermann said. “It is one way for someone to feel fully present in a space.”

Pronouns today are commonly included in introductions, especially at school. A teacher might ask you to include your pronouns on a survey or a name tent. Some students might not feel comfortable sharing their preferred pronouns and/or their preferred name, though. This could be because of fear of parents, staff or other students not respecting them. 

“As an educator, they mean inclusivity,” English teacher Ms. Jessica Bolles said.

There are some schools, however, like Central Bucks West in Pennsylvania that go to the extent of not respecting a student’s preferred name and pronouns without approval from the parent. Policies like these are very harmful to students because school should feel like a safe and stress-free environment to learn for all. 

“This is the most at-risk marginalized group of students,” David Klein, a social studies teacher at Central Bucks West said. “They need our support more than anyone else.”

Teachers and staff nationwide almost uniformly agree that it is important to create a safe environment for students. If students don’t feel safe in a classroom, how can they learn? Thankfully, many teachers at schools with these policies in place are in support of the students. Some of these teachers are even willing to lose their job if it comes to that, like how a teacher in Florida was allegedly fired after discussing sexuality with students in the Lee County school district.

There’s a misconception that pronouns are a ‘new’ trend going on today in the LGBT+ community as it’s gaining attention. But, in reality, pronouns of all varieties have always been a part of our English language. Some extremists even say they don’t have pronouns, which clearly is not the case as everybody is talked about in the third person even if they don’t realize it. People who are against pronouns aren’t really against them — they’re against the people who use them when those people don’t look or act like the traditional role that their pronouns are associated with.

The importance of respecting students’ preferred name and pronouns go beyond just the schools respecting them; it is also very important for the students’ families to respect and support them as well. 

 “It will make their children feel safe,” parent of a non-binary child C. Medina said. “The child will feel more open to share other things that are happening in their lives.”

It is important to create a safe environment at home as well as at school. If parents of a transgender or non-binary youth are not supportive of their child’s pronouns or identity, then that student is more likely to have self esteem issues and anxiety; if the parents are supportive, though, they are likely to have a higher self esteem, less chance of anxiety and can have more trust in the parent. Support from the parents of transgender or non-binary youth also can improve or help to maintain a good relationship between the parent and child. 

Overall, respecting someone’s pronouns is important, easy and benefits the person in more ways than just one whether you’re a parent, teacher or just a peer.