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A Different Way to Look at Pronouns.

Many cis-gendered folks do not feel they need to understand or care about people's preferred pronouns. Nor do they know why it is so important to actively try to challenge gender stereotypes and to not believe in a binary gender system, aka Male v. Female. As a nonbinary person who was a late bloomer, let me help give some context on why you should care.

My gender background

Hello, my name is Misted Forest, and I consider myself a non-binary forest, mermaid, or merfolk.

I have a health condition where I need to use external hormones. As It turns out, when I found the right cocktail of hormones, my gender fluidity stabilized. Now I can sit in a space of non-binary without feeling like, what the fuck am I every time I look in the mirror? (note not all trans or intersex people take hormones, nor do surgeries or change how they dress. Every genderexpansive persons' life is unique to them, and they are all valid) In some ways, I feel like I sit more in the intersex camp than in the trans camp. However, I give and receive emotional and psychological encouragement in support groups inclusive of all gender and sex-expansive and intersex communities.

I'm a late bloomer when it comes to embracing my sexuality and gender, probably because I have tried to survive the neuronormative world. At the same time, being multiply neurodivergent: ADHD, dyslexia, and possibly on the low-middle needs of the autism spectrum.

My neurodiversity definitely affects my internal sense of gender.

Growing up, I never felt like a boy or a girl. And I didn't even understand what the whole hoo-ha was about. Boys Over here, girls over there, and every time that would happen in PE class, I always feel like, do I have to go on the girl's side? Can I go on the boy's side? Once a Blue Moon, I'd be like, whatever girl side. I would often stand in the middle, defiantly like I didn't want to choose. Can we please not do this, all the while feeling really uncomfortable.

I didn't overthink my past because I was dealing with sexual harassment from a young age. And so, for me, misogyny was a real threat, and my sexuality at the time, being bisexual (there wasn't a word pansexual yet), was already such a big deal that I felt like, Okay, I want to survive right now. My childhood was challenging enough as it was.

As a young adult, the freedom and maturity to study gender and sexuality in college led me to meet many uniquely sparkly and fantastically outrageous types of people; I started to think about, hmm, you know, I have a lot of trans and intersex friends...could I possibly be one of them? I mean, I tend to gravitate toward the queer community. I don't like being around most straight or cis and straight people because of not wanting to deal with bigotry.

Unfortunately, it took almost a decade to accept the gender-fluid non-binary label that matched my internal experience.

In a two-week intensive meditation experience where I couldn't leave and meditated five plus hours a day around both cis and trans/gender-expansive people alike, I finally realized: Holy shit! I'm gender-expansive and nonbinary; no wonder why I've felt so uncomfortable with most people for so long. This realization is liberating to finally accept this part of myself and know that other people would accept me for who I am. After leaving the mountain, I began a new journey of stepping into my nonbinary identity, practicing my new pronouns, and figuring out what clothes to wear. They/them became my new pronouns. I'm trying out the pronouns zi, zir, and some of the other ones, but because of how fluid my gender can be and how I talk to myself out loud.

(Yes, all people talk to themselves, but folks with ADHD and autism tend to do it more: It's called external verbal processing, which is noticed in younger children between ages 4-10 usually; they tend to talk out loud a lot, and then eventually, their voice becomes internal for some of us; it doesn't really ever do that. And we prefer to talk out loud.) <-- side bar

Anyways for me, they/them pronouns also feel like I'm acknowledging more than one part of myself or acknowledging that people change and have, in a way, multiple types of personalities because we don't act the same with the same people and in a manner, all of us have different behaviors and lingo depending on who we interact with. Therefore, for me, they/them pronouns have a double meaning. It means I don't fit in the binary, and I don't want to; I'm acknowledging multiple parts of my being.

So why use pronouns?

Well, obviously, we all do. Most people use she, her, or he/him. And I have experienced a lot of pushback with my pronouns because I don't dress very androgynous, and even when I try my best to dress in the androgynous, I still look feminine; I'm curvy, it's pretty tricky. I embrace my body as best as possible, and at the same time, I do what I can to feel more at home in my body. And you know, if I had it my way, I would be skinny and super buff. But after experiencing years of orthorexia which is typical for us models and dancers, I do not feel putting myself into a dieting lifestyle to make other people feel better about my gender is healthy. Trust me, I've tried, and with illnesses, I can't find a way for me to look Agender or androgynous, nor should I or any other nonbinary person have too. And the thing is, there are a lot of gender expansive, nonbinary folks that don't want to 100% transition to the other gender, so for all of us that don't feel like we want to completely transition to one side or the other, It's hard because society expects us to not exist or pick a side.

The depressing thing is many cultures worldwide today have 3 or more genders.

The Mahu or Kumu Hina of Hawaii, Two Spirits in North American Indigenous tribes, and many more .

Many Jews don't know this, but in Ancient Judaism, the Hebrewlites had EIGHT genders!

People miss gender me all the time because of binary gender expectations; Even after I have told people my gender or worn a pronoun pin. These gender expectations are almost always tied to a person's body type, height, clothing, makeup, and societal expectations. These pronoun expectations are destructive. Think about all the womxn that have body image issues. The gender expectations hurt cis people as well. Adopting an asking and consent culture is a step toward everyone's healing.

When we're looking at pronouns, we need to think about that a pronoun is not just to match the gender that the individual feels about themselves; they feel like a man or a woman, both, neither, all, etc. It is respecting the persons internal experience. When you use someone's proper pronouns, it validates and respects their autonomy and intelligence.

What happens when you continually refuse to use someone's preferred pronouns?

It's incredibly insulting and invalidating. It is like saying, I don't see you for who you are; I don't care about who you are. Just fit into the box I want you to be in...And that hurts!

Gender Expectations Come Out everywhere, In the workplace, at school, and in public and private spaces. So imagine never finding anywhere that cares to see you. It is not a shock then why trans teens have incredibly high suicide attempt rates

Many teachers do not try to use my pronouns because I am the only gender-expansive person in the classroom.

Even when I dress really masculinely, it still happens. I have had more than one teacher say things like, alright ladies, we are all womxn here, and other comments lumping everyone in the class together. It feels like the 1950s sometimes.

This goes beyond pronouns when folks say things like, "well, boys like this and girls do that... etc. Or your boy clients will want to do ____; girl clients are different."

Even textbooks with sex education rarely talk about intersex or show different sex and gender differences beyond a penis and vagina. It's infuriating how many people are being ignored or dismissed.

It makes gender-expansive folks feel really alone when they are the only ones that speak up and point out binary gendered language. It is a lot of emotional labor. This is another reason why cis-gendered people need to care about this, so they can speak up for us too. Almost every social justice movement benefits when folks with privilege listen to what help marginalized folks need. As a cis-gendered person, if you do not want to harm your gender-expansive community, learn from us and challenge any biases you might have. Everyone has gender biases; the sooner we acknowledge that, the quicker change can happen.

Think about your own pronouns and how you feel if someone kept calling you by different ones.

Is it okay if you go by she/her and someone keeps calling you he/him over and over? How would it make you feel? What? Disgusted, confused, like you don't matter?

Maybe they're purposely making fun of you? You need to be more feminine and or masculine? Now imagine dealing with that everyday. It's a lot emotional labor to carry around.

If you forget pronouns, think about names. How often do people make excuses not to learn and remember folks' names? That is complete bullshit. And everyone knows it's bullshit because there are techniques to learn people's names better. And if you were gonna be given $1,000 or $10,000 tomorrow, if you remembered everyone's names in your class or at your job, you better believe you would learn everyone's names. Almost anyone can. It's just a motivation and a choice.

When you misgender someone, acknowledge it in the moment, use the correct pronoun and move on. Don't make a big deal about, but also actually try.

In conclusion, if you forget someone's pronouns, try remembering

their name and using their name more often, and who doesn't love hearing their own name?

Please send this blog post to anyone who needs to learn more about pronouns from a personal point of view.


Misted Forest

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