Creating Inclusive Space: Why Pronouns Are Important

Written by Sean Langdon & Dylan Weaver

Words in regular font written by Sean Langdon
Words in bold font written by Dylan Weaver

With the rise of online ministries, I have often been asked, “Why does is say “He/Him” next to your name?”. This is a good question! In recent years, you have likely seen more and more people provide their pronouns. This helps others know how you present yourself to the world. It also helps reduces the possibility of misgendering folks, particularly those who are non-binary or transgender.

For me, someone who has their pronouns by their name is someone who has taken the time to consider their gender. Whether their gender matches their assigned gender at birth, or they fall somewhere else on the gender spectrum. No one has to have all of the answers, the use of pronouns to me signifies that someone is willing to have a conversation. People are people. Gender is not confined to a binary. 

You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature. -Doctrine & Covenants 165:3c-d

This passage from our sacred text is a gentle reminder that there are many things that we may not fully understand. Even then, we are called to love and create communities that affirm all, especially those who others might marginalize.

There are so many ways to express and experience gender, however, in this society we are tied to
a binary. To step away from the social norm is hard to say the least. When we openly use pronouns,
we as a community create a safe space for all people, regardless of gender, to join in conversation. 

A little over a year ago, your Mission Center Leadership Team were ordering official name badges to wear to Mission Center, Ecumenical, and other events. Most of us Decided to add our pronouns to the name badges. Earlier that year at SPEC, a Northwest Staff Member provided pronoun stickers for folks to wear. These simple actions of affirmation and inclusion set an example for others.

When I came out as trans, I was uncomfortable using the male pronoun. While I knew that I was male, I did not fit society’s definition of what a male should be. I was short, I had very feminine feature, and a very high-pitched voice. When I did start using my correct pronouns, I was constantly misgendered. Having this happen many times a day, I stopped correcting people. However, when I saw someone with a pronoun pin, I knew that this person would respect my pronouns. In large groups, I would write my pronouns on my name tag and ask a few friends to as well. When people asked me why, I would explain the importance of pronouns and ask if they wanted to as well. One thing I started doing was carrying around pronoun pins to give away to people who don’t have them. These are for people like me who struggle with people not respecting their gender identity. When I wear mine, I would often get other people ask where I got it, so I just started carrying extras to give to those who might also be struggling.

Using pronouns are important gender identity markers but they can also be affirming and inclusive for those who represent the varied spectrum of sexual orientations as well. I was recently apart of a group of disciples in the church who were invited to write resource materials for Community of Christ. Many of the folks who participated in this Writer’s Summit were church members who I didn’t know. Then I started to notice the pronouns for some of these folks next to their names on the screen. All of the sudden, I was overcome with an awareness of safety and gratitude. For I knew that if these people were inclusive for trans and non-binary folks, then they were likely allies for me as someone who is bisexual as well. A stranger immediately became a friend even if we never spoke a word to each other.

Pronouns as important, while it may not seem like it, they are used many times a day. They
are easy to take for granted. So why are pronouns important? Well, they show that you are:
Willing to have a conversation 
Willing to ask questions 
Step outside of the gender norms/binary 
Willing to not make assumptions 

Earlier this week I shared a post on Facebook that said, “Using correct pronouns is suicide prevention.” This is so important for everyone to understand. When someone shares their pronouns, using them correctly is not just a sign of respect, your inclusive nature is potentially also helping to save the life of another. Yesterday, I also saw a shirt that said, “You are who you say you are.” That just about sums it up! Respect other people’s pronouns and, if you’re willing, consider helping to normalize this type of inclusion by sharing your pronouns on your computer screens, on name tags and badges, business cards, email signatures, when introducing yourself to others, and so on. Remember, we ALL have pronouns, and we can all help contribute to the building of the peaceable kingdom, yes Zion, by created a safer, more inclusive world for all when we use them and ask others for theirs.

Today, November 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. We honor all lives lost due to anti-transgender violence by sharing a special trans awareness version of our Mission Center logo.


RESOURCES:

Glossary of Terms from the Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

How to be a better LGBTQ ally: https://hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/ComingOut-Ally-Resource-2020.pdf

Why gender pronouns are important: https://www.seventeen.com/life/a12095244/heres-why-gender-pronouns-are-so-important/


Dylan Weaver is a straight transgender male and uses the pronouns He/Him. He lives in Portland, OR, and is a member of the Beyond Horizons Leadership Team.

Sean Langdon is a bisexual cisgender male and uses the pronouns He/Him. He lives in Springfield, OR, and is the Team Lead for the Beyond Horizons Leadership Team.


Beyond Horizons is a New Expression of Community sponsored by the Greater Pacific Northwest (GPNW) USA Mission Center for Community of Christ. Its purpose is to provide relational ministry and sanctuary for the LGBTQIA+ and allies community as well as provide education and awareness to the GPNW USA MC.

Team Leader: Sean Langdon (beyondhorizons@cofchrist-gpnw.org, 425-293-6366)

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