I’ve debated about writing this article because sadly it is still a controversial issue. A controversial issue that is one of many issues that is dividing this country apart. An issue that has been near and dear to me for decades yet never spoke up about it till I worked at a local mental health agency.
The topic I have chosen to write about is about respecting people’s pronouns and gender identity. This topic is quite important to me as I have never really identified as my perceived gender; female. I’ve considered myself to be genderqueer or non-binary or genderfluid and go by the pronouns they/them for quite some time yet never really corrected people for a multitude of reasons until recently.
It wasn’t until I got my first position at a local mental health agency when I realized the importance of respecting people’s pronouns and gender identity including my own. When I started working with clients who have felt disrespected by folks who didn’t respect their gender identity and/or the pronouns the individual goes by, I didn’t realize the impact it had on me when I advocated on their be behalf. It was in my job descriptions as a Consumer Aide and Peer Specialist to be an advocate for the clients I served.
Advocating for the clients I served regarding their pronouns and gender identity especially among a handful of my colleagues was not the easiest of things to do. It wasn’t easy to do at first because, I never really advocated for myself regarding my gender identity or preferred pronouns since the people closest to me already knew and respected this about me. So, when it became loud and clear to me in the first month of working in the mental health field that if it matters to the individuals I served, then it needs to matter to me as an individual who doesn’t go by societies gender norms. I’m not saying it didn’t matter to me before because it did however the Universe had used the clients I served on how important it is for me and my recovery as well as, the clients I use to serve.
As I came to terms with advocating for my clients and myself at work in the mental health field, I quickly realized that my own mental health treatment team didn’t know my preferred pronouns or that I identify as a genderfluid, non-binary, genderqueer individual. So, I decided if I am able to advocate for myself and my clients at work then I can advocate for myself with my treatment team. When I mentioned my gender identity and preferred pronouns, I found myself being on the receiving end of the advocacy I once did for my clients.
Why is it so important to respect people’s gender identity and preferred pronouns? Statistics show that 82% of transgender and non-conforming individuals don’t feel safe at work and/or school. The same stats show that 67% have been bullied online while 64% have had property destroyed. The effecting of being bullied especially regard gender identity are: six times more likely to be depressed; eight times more likely to attempt to die by suicide; and three times more likely to have a substance use disorder (SUD). To answer the question of why is it important to respect a person’s gender identity and pronouns is that it can literally safe someone’s life and is common courtesy to do so. It is also important that we respect each other as fellow human beings and that we value each other as individuals even if we don’t always get along.
Thank you for reading my lengthy article on respecting peoples pronouns and gender identity. The one thing I want you all to get out of this article is that gender identity plays a major role on who we are as individual’s as well as our mental health.