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  • Writer's pictureMcKinley

They/She - What Does that Mean?

Last July, I officially came out as queer to people that weren't the absolute closest to me. I am fortunate in that my friends and family are supportive. I've been through other labels that never felt Just Right. At the time I came out, I opted to use the label as queer in part reclaiming of it and in part because I didn't have it all figured out. It was comfortable enough to mean "I'm not heterosexual."

As I've expanded my social media feed to include perspectives and experiences that I have been unfamiliar with, I've followed a lot of transgender and/or nonbinary activists, advocates, writers, and artists. I started seeing so much content that I could relate to. I'd considered myself cisgender prior to gaining much of an understanding of how broad and nuanced of an experience it could be to be not-cisgender.

With one of my close friends who is transgender themselves, I did a lot of processing. I've never experienced body dysphoria, something that is not "required" to make a person trans - though I had incorrectly thought that it did. I learned also that you don't have to medically transition to be trans. I asked my friend to use they/them pronouns for me so I could see what it was like. She/her never felt uncomfortable, but in they/them I found euphoria.

In January, I changed my pronouns in my email signature line and Zoom display name to include the they/she pairing. I started introducing myself: "I'm Melissa; my pronouns are they/she..." at the beginning of meetings.

Working at a preschool, the nearly all of our staff are (cis) women and "Ms. So-and-so" becomes the default. A friend I work with asked me a couple months ago if I prefer Ms. or Mrs. (if I were married) and after I thought about it, I said: definitely not Mrs., I don't care for Ms. but it doesn't bother me. If I could really pick, I'd pick Mx." (Pronounced "mix").

One of my friends told me recently: "I use both your pronouns when talking in reference to you... so like in the same story, I’ll use they like 4x and she like 4-5x depending on if it’s an even amount of pronoun references."

This created so much joy for me to hear. For people who knew me before I added "they" to my "she" it is easier for them to continue using it - and it's still a pronoun I use, so it is fine. It's important if someone you know changes their pronouns and doesn't continue using one they used before that you use their correct pronoun. It can be difficult, but costs us nothing to change our language and ensure we aren't misgendering someone.

Queer is still the label I like the best. It leaves room for me to be me, and it's a lot shorter to mention than the other labels that describe my identity: nonbinary, transgender, and genderqueer. (An important note: not all nonbinary people identify as trans.)

Often, gender identity development ends up being: gender assigned at birth based on genitals (and, in the case of intersex children, often one set of genitals being chosen for them and surgery done without their ability to consent); family and society prescribes roles, hobbies, toys, etc. based on assigned gender at birth; gender identity remains unexplored or a person may risk losing their family/community by exploring or pursuing something that is not aligned with their gender identity at birth. This is why it's important to normalize everyone exploring their gender identity!


“saw a tiktok that said 'cis people (and anyone) should explore their gender. because if you still come out of that cis, atleast youre doing gender with intent instead of just going with what assigned to you' and thats a really nice idea”

Reply by @chichennuggests "I'M LIKE 90% SURE YOURE TALKING ABOUT MY TIKTOK"

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