I identify as a woman. I am used to hearing the female pronoun, “she”.  I also realize because I am female bodied, I will likely be addressed in such a manner, and also not asked whether or not that is my preference. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. In Farsi, the language spoken in Iran, there is no word for “he” or “she”. When referring to someone, we use the word “oon” which means “that one” or typically someone’s name more often in conversation. But in English we don’t have the luxury of being less gendered with our language. So much of our lives are dictated by defining ourselves and our world in order to make more sense of different situations. The need to define has forced people to come up with specific language to make that possible. We use words like “his” or “hers” to function as clarifiers, but we often do not acknonwledge that they function as alientators as well.

I have close friends that identify as queer. They have challenged me to learn more about how I speak and recognize that our society has an essentialist outlook that your birth sex must lead to your gender identity. In our society, we assume that people are male or female, “he” and “she”. My best friend and I have been through multiple life stages together. I have grown up with “her” and I am so unconsciously aware of the fact that when I speak about “her” I automatically use the female pronoun. At this point in “her” life, “she” would prefer to use a gender neutral pronoun. This change, while difficult because I have grown up with “them”, is inspiring me to think about the way I view people and to make less assumptions and instead ask people what they would prefer.

Using gender neutral pronouns can be powerful. First, not everyone can identify as man or woman, nor should they be forced to. A gender neutral pronoun is a way of eliminating sex as an identifier. Why should it matter what sex you are when we are all humans? Second, a gender neutral pronoun helps to call attention to the fact that our society is so gender based. Even though the dichotomy is likely accessed subconsciously, we need to make a more conscious effort to destabalize the lines that have been so clearly drawn by our history, our anatomy, and our society.

So I am making a decision to be more conscious. To consider that all people will not be comfortable being called “she” just because that person has breasts or wears clothes from the ladies department. I have started to think of ways of going about this. Maybe I will just use gender neutral pronouns for everyone.

Using gender neutral pronouns!

It is hard though, to know if all people will be comfortable with that. Some trans persons may be very adamant about their gender, and want to be referred to as the gender with which they identify. Maybe using pronouns like “they” for someone who is female bodied but has changed their societal identity to male would be offensive, suggesting that even though the person identifies as male, society will not acknowledge that and would use “they” or “them” because the person did not fit into our dichotomy. Perhaps I can use gender neutral pronouns and then ask a person if they would prefer me to think of them as a gender. I am still working on that part. Regardless, I want to encourage everyone to try and be more aware and to realize that even a simple word can make someone uncomfortable and an effort can make a change.

I am comfortable being called “her”, in case anyone wanted to know!

-Parisa Mansoori