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Identity Affirmation: Avoiding the pronoun showdown

Pronouns are weird. They’re monosyllabic and small as far as words go, yet so much of our identities are wrapped up in them.

Whether you identify as trans or cis, being referred to with the wrong pronouns can be an uncomfortable experience. For several trans folx, it’s downright painful on several levels.

If you’re out and feel safe and comfortable doing so, there are a handful of ways to ensure that the faculty, staff and students you interact with at Bradley are aware of your preferred name and pronouns, minimizing your odds of being misgendered in your campus interactions.

If you’re not trans, I would recommend following some of these recommendations to specify your pronouns anyway. It’s a quiet way of showing support for the community by helping normalize the idea of providing and asking for pronouns in all sorts of communication.

Webster

This is a fairly quick process to complete, and it will correct your information throughout the majority of University systems. If you log into your Webster account and open the ‘Personal Info’ tab, you’re given a list of information about yourself that you can update as necessary. In this case, you’ll want to look for ‘Preferred First Name’ and ‘Preferred Pronoun,’ and adjust them as you see fit.

The current pronoun options within the system are he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs. That being said, you are only able to select a single set at a time. Please be aware that Webster will list your gender as the sex you were assigned at birth, and it cannot be changed through the website. If you’ve completed the process of a legal name or sex marker change, you can have it corrected at the office in Swords Room 11.

Email (Bradley or Otherwise)

It’s becoming more and more common to see people identifying their pronouns in the automatic signatures of their emails. This acts as a reminder to those you communicate with often and builds awareness with others. You can also change the name that others see when they receive an email from your account.

Conversation

Talking to people about this stuff can be tricky, but it’s necessary. Friends and educators who have known you under another name or pronoun set should be notified of the change. I prefer to have such conversations in person, but if you feel more comfortable sending your professors an email or your friends a text, start there. Your comfort and safety should remain the priority.

Patience & Repetition

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to get your pronouns right every time. As someone whose personal style comes across as fairly femme, new acquaintances tend to assume I identify as female, and long-time friends still occasionally slip up. It’s easy to be upset by such circumstances, but try to be conscious of what is intentionally rude and what is an honest mistake.

For people you’ve just met, a gentle, ‘I actually use these pronouns, just so you’re aware,’ is usually the best way to correct the situation. With friends, you can get a little more creative in your reminders. One of my friends used to keep a spray bottle in his room for me to use to correct him when necessary. In public, looking him in the eye and mouthing the word ‘squirt’ tended to work as well and kept the mood light. One of my current professors has encouraged me to ‘plink’ (act out dropping a coin into a jar) if he slips up.

No matter how you choose to communicate your identity, you are valid. Keep advocating for yourself, and keep doing what you can to advocate for others. We’re all in this together.

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