Dealing with issues of sexuality and gender has been prominent since the 1970s when civil rights campaigning took hold on the United States. After decades of fighting for gay rights and not restricting the right to marry for everyone of every gender, color, and sexual orientation, the United States finally took a huge leap forward by legalizing same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015. What a great day to be an American.
Although this was a HUGE day in history for Americans, the fight is not yet over for people of the LGBTQ community. Gays and lesbians are becoming more accepted in our culture, but many still feel uncomfortable about coming out and expressing their innate sexuality. I’m talking people who identify as transgender, genderqueer, pansexual, and even those questioning their sexuality.
Despite the fact that discrimination is illegal, people still do it. Just because slavery became illegal, it didn’t stop people from being racist. It’s a sad and unnerving truth but an unfortunate reality that we still need to fight to combat altogether.
With that said, the first step we can do is start to accept people for who they are. Acceptance is such a difficult step for a lot of people to take. People inflict their own opinions onto others and don’t realize how much it may offend people. If you were raised to believe one reality, it is important to adapt and move with the transformation of time. As we grow older, society moves forward, culture changes and movements occur that change the dynamics of what was once the norm.
Part of accepting people is calling him or her by what he or she identifies by. A transgender individual may choose to identify by any pronoun he or she wishes. You might be surprised at how much calling someone “he” when they want to be identified as “she” can offend them.
For example, someone born a woman that now identifies as a man and injects testosterone into himself everyday… do you think he wants you to call him “she”? When someone puts an active effort into being the person they truly are, it hurts when you call them by the wrong identifying pronoun.
Many people have a difficult time grasping this notion because they cannot understand how someone could feel they were born the wrong gender. But that shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if YOU don’t get it; the fact of the matter is you just need to respect it. If you didn’t like being associated with something, it would bother you just as much if someone continued to correlate that to you. It’s simply a matter of respect and acceptance. And that’s not as easy for a lot of people. By not accepting someone, it is a form of prejudice and discrimination and is deplorable.
We should be far beyond judging people at this point in time. Our society is engrained in diversity and should be seen as a collection of people from all walks of life. We all matter just the same.
After speaking to 20-year-old student assistant Tyler Neroes at the Pride Center at California State University, Northridge, he gave us insight on the importance of getting someone’s pronouns correct.
“I think it is really important to get someone’s pronouns right because it is how they identify,” Neroes said. “They don’t even ask and they just assume they know my gender based on how I sound or what my body looks like. When they want to know my pronouns it makes me feel better. Even calling someone by their birth name when they identify by a different name is offensive.”
Neroes is transgender. He identifies by the pronouns he, him, his, they, them, and theirs.
Neroes believes it is crucial to just simply ask the pronouns someone identifies by. It’s so easy and only takes five seconds to get it right. Those five seconds will make a world of difference because you are showing that person a certain degree of respect that not everyone displays.
There are so many varying factors of identification within the trans community that you can never be certain how they identify without asking them. Not all trans people identify as male or female. There are many different identities outside of the gender binary that include differences in gender identity and sexual orientation.
Transgender people deal with a plethora of insecurities brought upon by societal pressures and ill acceptance from people who have a difficult time dealing with the changing dynamics of tolerance. According to transstudent.org, 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide. Trans women have a one in 12 chance of being murdered while trans women of color have a one in eight chance. Not only this, but 80 percent of trans students feel unsafe and uncomfortable at school because of their gender expression (For more information and info graphics, visit http://www.transstudent.org/graphics). Considering that Americans are a collection of unique individuals that thrive on a foundation of equality for all, no one should feel uncomfortable to be who they truly are. People should not be killed for expressing their sexuality or gender. Times are changing where we are trying to make everyone feel valued and confident to promote happier, healthier communities.
Considering trans people deal with a great deal of societal struggles and discriminations, the least we could do is ask them how they identify. It’s such a simple display of our respect. You have all said it growing up… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Grow with the changing times, treat everyone with love, respect and equality, and show them they deserve the same rights as everyone else to ensure they live long, happy lives. Show the world what Americans should be about according to what our founding fathers intended. But most importantly, be proud to be you.