Intermediate Pronoun Studies: pronouns conflicting with presentation

figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”

I have a two-part answer: 1.) repetition and reinforcement, and 2.) work on shifting your mental paradigm.

My advice is split into what’s going to help you stop misgendering this specific person — short-term, mostly-linguistic practice you can undertake without having to totally rewire your brain; and once you have that mastered, advice for how to stop having this difficulty in the future (which does involve a bit of brain-rewiring, but it’s totally possible!)

First part: Repetition and reinforcement

In order to get your brain used to associating specific pronouns with a specific person, you are going to need to practice much more intentionally. The harder you find it to intuitively use the right pronouns for your friend, the more you need to practice.

Second part: shift your mental paradigm of gender and pronouns in general

In order to stop having to do the above (tiring and slow) process every time you meet someone who’s gender non-conforming, or who switches things up while you know them, you’re going to have to rethink what pronouns actually are and what you think you know about other peoples’ gender. This part is harder, but now that you’ve gotten past the initial steep learning curve, the main goal is to expand what you did for Geoff to, like, everyone.

flowchart of when to use du or Sie in German; PDF version available https://bibliobrary.net/2010/01/04/when-to-use-du-and-sie
Source: When to use du and Sie

tl;dr

A reader wrote in asking: what do I do if I’m having a hard time using the right pronouns for my friend, when those pronouns don’t seem to me to match my friend’s name or appearance?

  • a VERY SHORT primer that is aimed at how to do the absolute minimum when you use pronouns about anyone!
  • pronouns 101 is an introductory guide on how to start using new pronouns for someone
  • pronouns 102 is about what to do if you’ve been trying for a while, but are still really struggling
  • a very short post on why it’s not okay to pressure someone to share their pronouns
  • a post on what to do if YOU want to try new pronouns, but aren’t sure you’re trans

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Kirby Conrod

Kirby Conrod

Dr. Conrod is a linguist and scholar sort of at large. They write about transgender stuff, the linguistics of pronouns, and ways to work with your brain.