He, She, They, Ze: The importance of preferred gender pronouns in the transgender community
By Tamsyn Stonebarger
August 5, 2015
Walk through the doors of the Boys and Girls Club in Tempe on Thursday evenings, and you’ll likely find a small group of people sitting in a circle making the usual small talk, some longtime friends discussing their plans for tomorrow.
They are there for a meeting of One•n•ten, an organization designed to provide support and a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth.
Victor Nedina, the leader of the group, asks everyone to introduce themselves and state their PGPs, or preferred gender pronouns. Members of the group state him/his, she/her, they/them or anything else they prefer. They/them are for people who identify with both or neither him nor her.
“It allows introduction to who you are and because – just by looking at anybody – you never know what someone’s preferred gender pronouns are,” Nedina said. “It really announces yourself and sort of sets like the ground environment on how you want to be called.”
Various groups in the Valley and on Arizona State University’s campus ask for PGPs, similar to the way this One•n•ten group does; it’s widely seen in the LGBTQ community.
Nedina believes that asking for PGPs should be implemented everywhere, not just in the support group environment.
“I hope it spreads everywhere in every social space,” Nedina said. “Right now it’s only in queer spaces where PGPs are something because we are such a fabulous and color-filled community of people; whereas in street spaces, they have their whole binary thing going on.”
Spencer McIntyre is a student involved in Devils for Gender Equality, the Rainbow Coalition, the LGBTQ Alliance and Leadership Launch at ASU. Her experience with PGPs starts with her involvement in Leadership Launch, a program for incoming freshman to get acclimated with ASU. Leaders of the program ask for preferred gender pronouns in every room and even put their PGPs on their name tags.
“When you are told something about yourself without having any say, you have to live your life a certain way just because what people tell how you are or aren’t,” McIntyre said. “I think that’s really damaging psychologically and emotional. I think that if we can take that stress off of people just a little bit, just by asking what they would prefer, I think that would be good for everyone because then we could open another door of just not assuming anything about anybody.”
Shane’s Story (audio)
Shane, a transgender man from Chicago, Illinois, and now current resident of Phoenix, created a very supportive “bubble” leading to an easier time in his work life and with his family during his transition. He advocates for being honest with people about how you want to be addressed when it comes to preferred gender pronouns.
Tamsyn Stonebarger is a junior pursing her bachelor’s degree at the Cronkite School studying sports broadcasting. Her work has been published by Austin Woman Magazine, and she has been featured on Talk 1370’s production of Friday Night Fanstand in Austin. Follow her on Twitter at @TamsynPStone.