What is “malgendering” and how can we avoid it?
Recently, the social network Instagram enabled the option for people to choose their gender pronouns, this in order to facilitate communication with the world from their identity. Although other networks do not offer this possibility, a large part of their user public has chosen to write their pronouns in the description of their account.
Remembering the grammar classes, we know that gender pronouns are those words that, when referring to a noun, indicate that characteristic. Until now, the genders accepted by the authority of the Spanish language, the Real Academia de la Lengua, are only two, masculine and feminine, therefore, the pronouns in use are “he”, for the masculine, and “she”, for the feminine.
However, in recent times some people have begun to build their identities outside of this binary system and, for example, have declared themselves gender neutral. For this group, in Spanish, it has been decided to use an ending with “e”, that is, “elle”.
Malgenerize, a concept
Until recently, clarifying one’s gender was not considered necessary, since it was taken for granted that certain physical and/or grooming characteristics were sufficient to know someone’s gender. But today, with the increased visibility of Trans, non-binary, or gender fluid people, this has become more common.
It should also be said that the incorrect use of gender pronouns with Trans people has been used as a form of discrimination against them. For example, mentioning masculine pronouns when referring to a Trans woman is a way of rejecting and invalidating that woman’s identity.
This misuse of gender pronouns, whether intentional or accidental, is called misgendering. The term comes from the English misgendering, and it is a phenomenon that is observed in spaces such as schools, workplaces or health services.
But it can also happen that the wrong pronouns are used simply due to a lack of knowledge.
You can respect all identities
According to LGBT Senior Services and Advocacy, a US civil organization, using the correct pronouns when speaking to someone is just as important as using their correct name, and makes them feel like they are in a safe and supportive environment. .
When you come into contact with a new person, whom you have not met through a social network, you have no way of knowing for sure what their gender identity is, therefore, you do not know what pronouns they use. For this reason, the recommendation is simple: ask someone you just met about this topic. You can do it directly, for example:
- What pronouns should I use to refer to you?
- What pronouns do you use?
- My pronoun is “she”, what is yours?
This not only shows respect and consideration for the person you are talking to, but also helps to normalize the diversity of gender identities that are manifested today.
A daily exercise
Putting respect and inclusion of all gender identities into practice in your daily life can be difficult at first, but like everything in life, it can be perfected with practice.
The first recommendation to improve this is to always ask and never assume. For example, there are gay men who speak to each other with feminine pronouns, but that doesn’t mean that every straight person can speak to them in the same way. Always ask to avoid creating an uncomfortable situation.
On the other hand, when you meet someone, it is better to use neutral language. In social settings, such as when you are a teacher at a school or simply arriving at a party or social gathering, you can try saying hello without any gender pronouns. For example, instead of saying “Good morning everyone” or “Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” just say “Good morning.”
Like any practice, there may be mistakes. If you notice that you used the wrong pronoun with someone, apologize and correct it, this way the person in front of you will feel taken into account and respected.
The world is changing and today’s freedoms are broader than before. At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we know the importance of creating spaces free of discrimination, especially when it comes to sexual health. Remember that if you are looking to get a free HIV test or if you want free condoms, we have them for you. Locate our offices in your country and learn about all our services.