What’s Your Pronoun? Empathy found in English Grammar

Amie Daniel, Staff Editor

Students gathered to learn the importance of pronouns for the October 16th installation of the Food for Thought series here on campus. Associate Director of Mental Health Counseling, Dr. Joy Stephens, and co-advisor for the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Rachel Adam,s ensured the event allowed students a space to be vulnerable and heard all at once. The event intended to clear the air about what pronouns are, how to avoid misgendering, and how to know proper pronouns. In corresponding with Dr. Stephens about the importance of respecting pronoun preferences, she put it simply by saying “Being respectful of pronoun use communicates that our environments are inclusive and affirming.  It is a step toward making sure that people of all genders feel welcome.”

Although no environment is perfect, how reassuring to know that HCC has staff at the forefront making sure that we all feel accepted. Rachel Adams not only serves as the co-advisor for SAGA, but she can also be found serving as an assistant professor in the Communications Department, as well as on the Diversity and Safe Zone committees here on campus. It’s fair to say that she is an authority when it comes to HCC students having visibility and inclusion. If you are unfamiliar with the notion of gender being a broad spectrum rather than reduced to just male or female, it can be intimidating to know what’s what. Rachel suggests using The Gender-Neutral Pronoun Blog when in doubt. It is truly an invaluable resource. As a brief overview of pronoun variability, Rachel provided the following, “Some of the pronouns you might see in addition to she/her, he/him, and they/their are ze/hir, ze/zir, and xe/xem. You might also see ‘Mx.’ (pronounced ‘mix’) as a gender-neutral honorific”.

Using the preferred pronoun of those around you is more than proper etiquette or niceties, the attention to this ensures that each person you interact with feels respected and honored. Pronouns denote one’s identity and when acknowledged correctly, people feel happier and are less likely to consider suicide. Keeping that in mind, always be mindful of the power of your words. You may have noticed many HCC staff include their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. This gesture is a tribute to the wonderful, diverse, and inclusive community of Howard Community College.

While HCC is a progressive environment, our society as a whole is not always on pace with matters of fair treatment. Being misgendered can be painful. It’s important to know you are not alone. SAGA (formerly called the Gay/Straight Alliance, or GSA) meets on Tuesdays from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. in Duncan Hall 217. Attending meetings is a great way to become involved, share your experience, and be of service to your fellow peers.