By Nadeya Hussain –
These days, when you go into your local coffee shop to grab your morning brew, you may notice the server’s badge now lists that person’s pronouns.
While this may seem strange to some, these days, in our ever-evolving world, it’s important for many that their preferred way of being addressed is noted and understood.
Although the common use of pronouns when discussing gender tends to be ‘he’ or ‘she’, there are different pronouns that many like to be addressed as.
The most common example would be the use of ‘Non-Binary’ pronouns. Someone who is non-binary doesn’t identify as male or female, and so would prefer to be referred to in ‘gender neutral’ ways, such as using ‘they’ ‘their’ and ‘them’ as their pronouns.
The usage is dependent on the circumstances. Someone who is transgender may prefer ‘he’ or ‘she’ depending on which one they feel most comfortable with.
The best way to approach a situation you’re unsure of is simply to ask! Even if you get it wrong initially, most people will not get angry or upset, but instead will simply say what their preferred pronouns are, and ask you to use them.
If you approach the situation from a place of respect, understanding and acceptance, everyone is much more likely to come away happy.
On the other hand, don’t be worried that you have to go around asking every single person what their pronouns are all the time; context is key. It’s simply about being more aware and understanding of those around us.
It might seem strange or unfamiliar at first, but the next time you find yourself in an instance where pronoun usage is appropriate, start by giving your own pronouns, and see where the conversation goes from there.
How do different generations talk about pronouns?
The use of pronouns beyond what we learn in English class is still a fairly new concept for many. How do different generations stack up in terms of their awareness?
Generation X – Born: 1965 – 1980
In studies with groups of Gen Xers, 16% said they are familiar with gender pronouns. The number seems small, but in reality simply acknowledges that for many older generations, things like gender and sexuality were not actively discussed outside of health classes. The number will likely rise as people gain more awareness over time.
Generation Y – Born: 1991 – 1996
Probably the most infamous and widely talk about generation, Gen Y, or ‘Millenials’ as they are often referred to, tend to be acknowledged as the first generation to look at the concept of binary gender differently.
In their book, A Shifting Landscape, Daniel Cox, Juhem Navarro-Rivera and Robert P. Jones note that Gen Y was also the first generation to begin to disregard notions of binary gender and destigmatize same-sex relationships.
This generation and onwards are the group of generations that became more diverse in their gender identities and pronouns than previous generations
Generation Z – Born: 1997 – 2012
According to a 2018 study conducted by Pew Research Centre 35 per cent of Gen Z adults know someone who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns. Quite the shift from Gen X, and more reflective of how gender and its fluidity will be approached in the future.