Students reflect on importance of pronouns, LGBTQ+ history

Graham Shapley

International Pronouns Day encourages the proper use of pronouns with a focus on transgender voices. Established in 2018 and taking place on the third Wednesday of October, it gives focus to those who typically have to deal with their pronouns being misused.

a person in front of a pride flag
Maggie Hendrickson behind a stand for International Pronoun Day in The Plaza Oct. 16. Rafael Duarte, who was with Hendrickson, said, “We wanted to make sure people are aware that there (are) different pronouns other than the binary and just to respect them and embrace them.” (Ryan Schmidt | The Collegian)

“It’s half educational for folks who might have questions and half celebratory for folks who want to show some pride in their pronouns and their identity,” said Maggie Hendrickson, the assistant director of the Pride Resource Center, who uses the pronouns they/them/theirs.

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The event was hosted by Queer Connections, the Pride Resource Center’s weekly meeting for students and other members of the Colorado State University community. The group comes together to discuss topics related to the LGBTQ+ community, including pronoun usage.

Pronouns are words used to replace full names when referring to a person or group of people. In English, and many other languages, they carry gender with them. 

“Pronouns are some of the first ways that we assign gender to people when we look at them,” Hendrickson said. “We see a name, a haircut, a body type, the way that they’re dressed and assign a gender in our brain. We’re socialized to do that automatically.”

Attendees were encouraged to introduce themselves with their pronouns when meeting new people regardless of gender identity. Ideally, this will encourage others to feel more comfortable sharing their own pronouns.

The importance of using pronouns is just, like, being a decent human being and realizing that people aren’t like you.” –CJ, student

“When people use he/him and I’m feeling that way, it feels very affirming and like I’m validated, like people are considering me,” said Joaquín Aguirre, who is gender fluid and uses both he/him and she/her. “I think a lot of pronouns is acknowledging people.”

Attendees shared not only their own pronouns, but their own experiences with misgendering and how best to correct others in the event that they should misgender or misname somebody.

“By pausing and asking somebody for their pronouns, it allows people to engage with you in a more authentic way,” Hendrickson said.

Using the correct pronouns is also a matter of respect.

“The importance of using pronouns is just, like, being a decent human being and realizing that people aren’t like you,” said CJ, who uses he/him and preferred not to share his last name. “If someone introduced themselves as John, you wouldn’t be like, ‘Yeah, whatever Steve.’ For cisgender people, there’s not that immediate thing like, ‘What this person tells me is wrong, so I’m gonna decide what I think.’” 

Commonly, individuals who are changing their pronouns, or who have pronouns that don’t match the assumptions that people make, face pushback and hostility. 

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“A lot of people get stuck into ideation of the norm, but we all know normal doesn’t exist,” Aguirre said. “Talk to anybody and they lament about how they’re not normal. So you start to question, is there a sense of normalcy at all? And there isn’t. A lot of people like to cling onto that idea of normalcy because then they don’t have to hold themselves accountable to a thought that is deviant to what we consider to be the norm.”

They as a singular pronoun has become more prevalent recently. Although some may claim that the word’s use is grammatically incorrect, Merriam-Webster has recently admitted the singular “they” into the dictionary, and the Associated Press has also allowed “they” in reference to gender.

“It’s important to realize that this is another human being that you’re talking to, and they just want to be respected,” CJ said. “If you don’t want to be a respectful person, and you just want to be a d*ckbag, I guess that’s something that you can decide to do, but it just makes you a jerk.”

Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham