COLUMN: Problematic Pronouns

Nova Uriostegui

Elmhurst College prides itself in being a pioneer of asking if you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, but it lacks education and discussion on gender pronouns. From being denied pronouns on name tags due to “lack of space” to being misgendered on a regular basis by people of authority, it is tough out here to be anything but cisgender.

You can see just how bad it is on the first few days of classes, when every professor and organization makes you do the same icebreaker just in different variations. Most spaces ask for name, major, year, and a fun fact about yourself, whereas the minority of spaces asks for pronouns.

Whenever these introductions are done, people stumble on the pronouns and act like they have never heard of one before, and if you are one of those people, here is a quick English 101 lesson for you: a pronoun is a word used in place of a proper noun to describe the subject being talked about or to describe an unknown subject.

This inconsistency and downplay of the importance of pronouns makes it difficult for trans* people to navigate in these suddenly unsafe spaces.

For some of us, it has become a regular thing to say pronouns right after our name, even if we are not asked because if no one asks, then we will be misgendered. It has fallen on us, the individual, to have to educate whole classes, peers, and even faculty and staff. Even then, it still never sticks.

There have been numerous times where people have been misgendered by faculty, staff, and even administration, but the blame does not solely fall on those people. What is to blame is the lack of education about pronouns on this campus. Many people know about he/him/his and she/her/hers, but a lot of people cannot wrap their minds around they/them/theirs.

For all the grammar junkies who think that they/them/theirs are not proper singular pronouns, check the dictionary because “they” can be plural, and “they” can be singular, so this should not even be a valid excuse. Pronouns are definitely not something new when you enter college.

Just because pronouns are not important to you does not mean they are not important to somebody. We need to have more pronoun dialogue, whether it be consistent with having pronouns in all introductions done by professors, speakers, students, etc. or to have pronoun workshops held by QSA and any other groups on campus. Whatever is going to happen needs to start happening sooner rather than later.

The trans* community is not a small one, and as the lines of gender become blurred, the discussion of pronouns needs to become more and more prominent. We as a college want to consider ourselves allies, and many of us on the campus have already done things to warrant that, but we cannot stop at QSA, all-gender housing, and all-gender restrooms.

Just because you do not think they are important does not mean they should be disrespected. If someone tells you their pronouns, use them, correct yourself, and ask questions. It is no longer valid to say “I don’t feel comfortable with that” because we also do not feel comfortable with you assuming who we are.