The Importance of Pronouns


Way back in the dark abyss of closethood, I didn’t understand just how important it would be to me to be referred to with the correct pronoun. Literally, I had no concept of how liberating and empowering it would be to have people see and respect me in that small, yet pivotal way.

So, I didn’t insist on people using feminine pronouns when speaking to me. I would mention it as a preference if asked, but not correct people when they referred to me in the masculine.

I may have mentioned before, but I’m recovering from low self-esteem. I didn’t understand that a big part of that low self-esteem was stemming from how I was not insisting on having my psychological needs met when socializing with people. I have to give a big “Thank You!” to my penpals and the small group of people here in prison that took my quiet request and treated it with the importance I wasn’t. (Fun factoid, all but two of the people in prison that showed me that respect, are cisgender heterosexual males. How’s that for “assumptions challenged”?)

I now have a theory: self-esteem is like that time travel paradox where a guy travels back in time and becomes his own grandpa. It doesn’t really work unless the whole thing “pops” into existence all at once. The guy’s father couldn’t have been born, and thus he couldn’t have been born until after he had traveled back in time and hooked up with his own grandma. A sci-fi Oedipus complex.

Anyway… Self-esteem is like that. It “pops” from one quantum state to another all at once, or not at all, and the one thing needed to develop self-esteem, is self-esteem.

For the past year or so I’ve been lucky enough to have people telling others my preferred pronoun on my behalf. This has done wonders for me. It’s like an external force that acted upon the inertia of my self-esteem causing a change in both velocity and vector.

It was made extra apparent to me today when someone (a c/o) pointedly called me “sir” during a pat-search after I had informed him that I am trans. Thankfully, he didn’t touch me inappropriately (which happens despite me specifically stating “I am trans, please don’t touch my chest” every time I have to stand for search). It is, however, still sexual harassment and misgendering regardless of the Wa DoC’s official lack of position on the matter.

The way I felt when he did that really brought it home for me how much I have grown as a human becoming in the past year, as well as how important it is to have that small, subtle, and vitally important support of the people around me.

So to anyone that was suffering from the same trap that I had made for myself, insist upon correct pronouns even if you feel like it is a low priority as compared to other issues in your life.

In the book The Fault in Our Stars, the narrator makes an argument about how the idea of “if you don’t know the bad, you can’t appreciate the good” is garbage. I agree. The existence of broccoli in no way affects the awesomeness of chocolate. The trouble is when all one has had for one’s entire life is broccoli and has never had chocolate, can one understand the importance of insisting upon one’s fair share of chocolate?

And without that understanding, all one can see is the effort required, but not the reward which makes it worth it.

If only I understood years ago that it is always worth it to demand chocolate.


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