You may have noticed that I don't list my pronouns separately on my website, LinkedIn, or email signature. Before we go any farther, let me be clear. I absolutely support the use of pronouns.
As we know, language is powerful. And pronouns are a piece of that language that helps us understand and respect one another's identities. So I embrace other people's pronouns and I use them correctly. If I make a mistake, I apologize and correct it.
When I first started learning about nonbinary pronouns, I excitedly perused the options to see if another set of pronouns fit, maybe something completely gender-neutral that didn't even include gender in its definition. And while "they" slips out of my mouth easily for other people, it doesn't quite feel right for myself.
Even though I live in a culture that decides it's important to divide the world by gender before we're even born and carries that through many of our daily actions as adults, I see gender as largely irrelevant. I didn't give my gender much thought growing up. I was too focused on just being human and doing stuff.
Most of the time when someone brings up gender, it feels limiting to me, like we're being boxed in. It seems like a reminder to adhere to the societal expectations thrust on us all. But I'd much rather follow my own interests than get in line with someone else's idea of who I should be, what kind of career I can have, what sports I can play, what I should look like, or what emotions are acceptable to express.
I've always wanted all the emotions, careers, friends, and experiences that belong to a full human existence.
Where did we get the idea that we need to divide the world by gender anyway? It's not innate or biological. It's a choice. And we can either continue to segregate the world this way. Or not.
I'm not advocating that we stop paying attention to other's people's gender identities. It can be an important part of who we are. One of my favorite examples of this is Jonathan Van Ness, who fully, fabulously, and flamboyantly embraces his masculinity, femininity, and genderqueer/nonbinary identity.
But just as it's important to respect the people who identify with a gendered identity, it's equally important to respect those of us who don't want their life or identity defined in this way.
What does that mean for my personal pronouns? I've used "she/her" most of my life, and while I don't specifically highlight these on my website, you may still see me using them when rephrasing the sentence would be too clunky with just my name. So if you refer to me that way, that's fine. But I'm excited for language to evolve and create a pronoun that I really love.
In the meantime, the most respectful thing to me is simply allowing me to be human, without expecting me to adhere to a certain set of behaviors associated with one gender or another.
As a diversity editor, I encourage you to understand why you chose to make certain characters a particular gender and most importantly, how you portray their gender identity. Does it match their character development, or did our unconscious bias slip in? How do you want to portray gender in your story? Have you given it careful, intentional thought or did you rely on automatic assumptions and stereotypes? Is your language reinforcing the outdated gender binary or allowing people of all genders to shine?
Because I constantly question the meaning and importance of gender and gender roles in our society, these are the kinds of questions I think about when I read. If you hire me to be your diversity editor, we'll explore these issues together. I don't tell you what to do with your book, but I will ask you plenty of questions to help ensure that whatever you decide is intentional and lines up with your goals for the world you want to create.
Beyond Birds & Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality by Bonnie J. Rough
The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta