To HRC Deputy Press Secretary Elliott Kozuch, International Pronouns Day is an opportunity to learn more about pronouns and how we can better respect people by asking, using and affirming their pronouns.
“Especially at a time when transgender and non-binary Americans are under near-constant attack by the Trump-Pence administration, I’m using this day personally to send a strong message of support to my fellow transgender siblings,” said Kozuch, who uses they/them pronouns. “We see you and we are fighting for you.”
International Pronouns Day is observed on Oct. 16 to “make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.” Gender identity and expression are central to the way we see ourselves and engage in our surroundings.
Colin Kutney is transgender and is the senior manager of HRC’s state and municipal programs. He knows that being conscious of pronouns is a challenge because people often make assumptions based on appearance and encourages people to not be shy and ask about pronouns when socializing.
“When you're at a party, or any other social event, with friends or professional colleagues, even just asking a simple question: ‘What pronouns do you use?’ or ‘What pronouns can I use for you?’ It almost seems like a taboo,” Kutney said. “And it’s really a simple question, it’s really not anything taboo at all. It’s quite normal considering we use pronouns all the time. It’s a cultural thing that we’re all trying to get used to.”
Normalizing this question makes it easier for the transgender and non-binary people in your life -- your friends, family members, classmates, co-workers or other community members -- to share their full selves with the world, knowing you have their backs. Ana Flores, HRC’s senior manager of inclusion, education and engagement, said that asking about pronouns goes a long way to a transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming person.
“For folks who aren't used to asking someone's pronouns or sharing their own, it can be hard,” Flores, who uses they/them pronouns, said. “Whenever someone asks me for my pronouns before talking to or about me, and when they use my correct pronouns, it's incredibly validating.”
As more and more youth are identifying as non-binary, gender expansive, genderqueer and more, this remains immensily important. HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut’s Gender-Expansive Youth Report revealed that less than a quarter of transgender and gender-expansive youth feel that “they could be themselves” at home and in school.
“I think the future is queer, so if you’re struggling right now, just know you have a lot of support. As time goes on, you will find your community and your people, and there are a lot of people who will accept you for who you are,” Kutney said. “Whatever your identity is, whatever name you choose for yourself, your pronouns -- there will be a community that will support you and that will be increasingly true.”
Kozuch echoed this sentiment, adding that while the community will encounter hardships, the world is better because of their openness to share who they are.
“If you are in the process of coming-out -- first off, congratulations,” they said. “Some people may not understand your identity, and some may even refuse to try understanding. What matters is that you understand yourself. Continue to be the expert on who you are and what you need, and find the people in your life who will affirm those needs.”
Pronouns are also an important way to show you’re an ally. For HRC’s Executive Board Relations Coordinator Bonnie Casillas, sharing her pronouns is an extension of her allyship for the LGBTQ community.
“As a straight, cis woman of color, pronouns matter because it gives room for everyone to present themselves authentically. Saying my pronouns aloud or simply including them on my email signature is also an easy way to tell people that they are welcomed and respected. This is just one of the little ways I use my privilege every day,” she said.
Throughout the struggles and triumphs, the important thing to know is that your existence matters.
“It makes me so happy to see more and more people exploring their genders, playing with expression and creating a totally new and unique way of existing and showing the world who they are,” Flores said.
If you or someone you love is transgender or non-binary, HRC has some great resources you should check out, like our Gender-Expansive Youth Report, Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace guide and more at our resource page for transgender topics.
This International Pronouns Day and every day, commit to making the world more inclusive for LGBTQ people and others by using the right pronouns. Check out HRC’s "My Pronouns Are” pins at hrc.im/Pronouns.