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Gender Neutrality is More than Just Being Grammatically Incorrect

LGBTQ2 Canadian storyteller and writer Ivan Coyote does presentations at schools on acceptance.

There is a recurring question students ask Ivan on how they deal with those misplaced pronouns, and Ivan’s advice is to be patient.

Ivan has gone on record in the past about how they self-identify.

In a 2016 social media post, they wrote:

“I am used to people using both he and she to refer to me, and I have used both pronouns for myself for different reasons in the past, before I knew about the they pronoun. I make myself be okay with people using either pronoun for me most days, mostly because I don’t want how my day goes to be decided by others’ language too much.”

“But I use the pronoun they, and the added respect and feeling ‘seen’ when people get it right feels so good and accurate and true to me. I really appreciate those people who ask, who learn it and then do it, especially when they just do it and don’t turn it into a production. Like, I really appreciate it.”

Students take Ivan’s advice and forgive others for lapses in pronoun use, and they have educated me on how the first step is becoming comfortable with your own identity. The ones that truly love you will eventually free their minds and their propensity to write or say gendered pronouns, and the rest will follow.

Most writers don’t really think about pronouns. They type those lazy noun replacements like flicking a flea off a dog’s back. However, this writer has really had to think about pronouns and what they mean to those in the LGBTQ2 community, particularly those who identify as gender fluid or non-binary.

I have had to learn how to be grammatically incorrect in both speech and type as the mother of a non-binary child, and now use the plural term ‘they’ when referring to what was once ‘she’ or ‘her’, ‘he’ or ‘him’.

How to say They - Merrymen Magazine article on LGBTQ2
How to Say 'They' - Merrymen Magazine

This past year has been a learning experience, to say the least, and one that my former English-journalism teachers would have constantly corrected me for, but that was when we didn’t have as much understanding. I have been educated by my soon-to-be 14-year-old to stop referring to them as ‘daughter,’ ‘sister,’ ‘son,’ ‘brother,’ ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ I have had to explore my vocabulary to use more gender-neutral nouns and pronouns.

As a result, acceptance can directly affect a person’s confidence. The education we all receive today like learning proper use of pronouns can have a greater impact on someone’s life. The outcome translates to these individuals knowing that they deserve to be happy and understanding their importance. With acceptance and love from their peers, they have an unspoken permission to thrive with the confidence to make choices based on their beliefs rather than out of fear.

Those who have received support are less likely to isolate themselves. Ivan adds that making peace with oneself can free them from fear of judgement from others, but being surrounded by people who encourage them to be their authentic selves serves as one of the greatest sources for confidence.

“Don’t be discouraged whatever your age or ambitions. Build yourself, love yourself.”
– Marc Posso

© 2021 Merrymen.

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