Pronouns, Why They Matter to Kids
Back to school! To prove to kids I’m no fool! Back to school! To prove to kids I’m so cool! Anyone else remember that rhyme? I do. And this year school may look very different from what kids know. Let’s face it, what parents and teachers know as well.
What I know to be true is that everyone is stressed about going back to school this year. Some kids are staying home and doing online school. While others are going back to school with new guidelines, or rules to follow. Then there are some kids who are doing a split between online and in person classes.
This year especially helping students feel safe is key, and I feel should be a top priority. How teachers interact with their students is very important. And how they are addressed is also equally important, maybe even more important. I am talking about pronouns. For example, I identify as female, and my pro-nouns are she/her. And I want to make it clear from the start that this topic is not a political issue. It is a human issue. I recently posted an article about how teachers can support students by addressing them by the pronouns they want to be addressed by. Someone commented about how they do not want to get into politics about this.
And I want to make it clear from the start that this topic is not a political issue.
Stop for a moment. And read this. The rate of teen suicide is on the rise. The rate of kids who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community die by suicide at an even higher rate. Read that again. It is fact that for many student’s school may be their safe space to be themselves especially if they are struggling with how they identify at their core. And yes, in the same breath school may not be a safe space for students. I know it was not a safe space for me.
Using the correct pronouns that the students want to be addressed should be followed and respected by staff at school. The most common pronouns are she/her, and he/him. Yet there are a couple of newer pronouns that I have come to learn over the past few years, and it is they/them and the other one is ze/hir. To my understanding these pronouns are used when the individual identifies as gender neutral, or gender fluid.
You can read more about these two pronouns here: https://www.mypronouns.org/ze-hir or https://www.mypronouns.org/they-them
It has taken practise for me to use they/them and ze/hir pronouns. As it is not what I grew up with. I grew up with he/him, and she/her. I also grew up with boys and girls can date and get married. Not two boys together, or two girls together. And heaven forbid if I knew someone who was transgender, or gender fluid.
I do know that transgender and gender fluid individuals did exist when I was a girl in the 1980’s, and 1990’s. Yet it was not something talked about or seen on TV. Unless they were portrayed as a cross dresser or living with some sort of mental illness. Which historically being a part of the LGBTQ+ community was a mental illness up till 1987. As well it was illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer under the law in Canada until 1969. It was not until 2005 in Canada that ‘gay marriage’ was legal. In 2015 the USA legalized ‘gay marriage’.
It was not until 2005 in Canada that ‘gay marriage’ was legal.
Yet I digress……let us get back on topic, in today’s world in 2020 children who are struggling with their own sexual identity are looking to us their leaders to see them as they are. And addressing them as their pronouns they want to be addressed by. When we address them with the wrong pronouns repeatedly it is a form of disrespect and even bullying. I know there are amazing teachers out there in the world, I had many.
Yet then there were one or two who made my school years rough. I want to stress to teachers and administrators that checking your bias’s, judgements, and opinions of students to themselves. This links into the social and emotional health of students. When teachers smile and as the brilliant author Toni Morrison says, “Do your eyes light up when a child enters the room?” This is what students are looking for. They are looking to teachers to see them and call them by name. It is like teachers saying I see you.
“Do your eyes light up when a child enters the room?”
Teachers who use a child’s correct pronouns will see students smile more, drop their shoulders some, and engage with teachers. The feel seen and heard. It helps create a safe space for students to express themselves. And addressing students with the proper pronouns is not just limited to grade school, or high school. It also leads into university/college as well.
A friend of mine shared a photo last fall in 2019 of her daughter attending university away from home. She was living in the on-school residence. Each student had a sign to fill out on their door. It was asking for their name, their preferred name to be called (in case on legal documents a name might be Kristen, yet Kristen likes to be called Kristy), and preferred pro-nouns. I thought that was awesome to see.
If reading this stirs up emotions, or triggers you, good! That was my plan. Sometimes those of us who have been on this planet for 40, 50, or 60+ years need some shaking up from time to time. And if I can offer any words of advice when you are unsure of a person’s pro-nouns, the best thing to do is to ask. Ask what is your preferred pronoun? It will take practise, yet inch by inch it will get better.
Looking forward to this month! My birthday month! I love October! If you have questions, or comments please reach out. email@example.com is the best way.
More About Aime Hutton
Aime Hutton is a true miracle survivor. Being born 3 months early was just the start of the challenges Aime has overcome in her life time. Hailing from Calgary, Alberta Canada, as a Youth Diversity Advisor, Aime helps educators facilitate safe spaces for young female students so they can instill connection, inclusion, and courage in themselves. As a 5-time international best-selling author/compiler.
Aime shares hope, healing, and inspiration through her writing. She was a finalist for the International Femtor Awards 2015 for eWomenNetwork in the category of Business Matchmaker from Dallas, Texas, USA. Being 1 of 6 in North America, and the only Canadian. In 2017 Aime was awarded the Peace & Friendship Award by Diversity Magazine in Alberta for being one who celebrates, accepts, and learns from the Indigenous people of Canada.
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