supporting users

“Hey there chum!” Some non-gendered terms for friends

I had a lovely question on Tumblr recently (where you can ask me/TIMP questions, whether anonymously or no) about gender-neutral terms of affection for friends. I had already written a similar little post on lovers.

First of all, this is a really lovely question. I come across many people with differing opinions on whether pretty generic gendered words can be gender-neutral terms of affection or address. I tend to use ‘guys’ a lot myself but I know this doesn’t work for everyone. Some friends of mine have used ‘guy’ in this way, but also encountered some who didn’t prefer this for gender reasons.

I personally like:

pal

friend (a bit Shakespearean on the page but feels really nice in practice)

cuz

buddy (although this is sometimes experienced as masculinizing)

dear (potentially condescending but can be nice)

love (why keep this for the conjugal?)

chum

I also like using more silly things like:

captain

champ

kiddo

But I am a bit silly and use humour a lot in my relationship to gender, as a person and a teacher, so these might feel more easy for people like me (see my post on introverts).

Stepping outside of gendered language is also an opportunity to create your own language. I recently realized that I have nicknames for every single one of my friends: things that have sprung organically out of our friendship and the things we do or stories we share together.

Thanks for the mindful question, Tumblr user, and for your awareness that it’s one worth asking! 🙂

Warmly,

Lee

‘They’re my main squeeze!’ Telling people about your non-binary lover

thy-page said:

“Hey I really want to ask just out of curiosity do people who use they have a word they get called when in a relationship eg with the biranry gernders boyfriend girlfriend. Is there something like they for people who use they?”

Hi there thy-page!

An excellent question. I think the most common word is ‘partner’ but this can be quite a heavy-duty term implying a primary if not monogamous relationship as well as a particular duration and intent (spouse is similar).

I see queer and/or trans* people around me overwhelmingly using partner language, but I also hear some straight cis-gender (non-trans) people using partner language, too. This has the nice effect of opening up the possibility that their (absent and referred-to ‘partner’) could be of any gender, and makes a little crack in the inevitability of heterosexuality. I often encourage my straight students to try referring to their partners with singular they and partner language in conversation with strangers, and to see what happens. Give it a try, interwebs!

But I digress.

‘Partner’ and ‘spouse’ certainly don’t reflect all ways in which people approach their relationships, particularly more casual, less primary or less durational ones. I’ve heard people use the following:

date

lover

crush

significant other

sweetheart

sweetie

new friend

main squeeze

Of course, some of these can sound pretty cheesey, and might have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek quality to them. They also may be a bit awkward to use when introducing your person to others: “This is my main squeeze!” or “Meet my crush!” However, I’m a big proponent of embracing and surviving awkwardness as best as we can; but I’m also an extrovert and someone who actively studies awkwardness as a teaching tool…

So another and perhaps more socially seamless option is to use gerunds (-ing words) in the style of ‘person-first’ language popularized by some disability rights advocates. Here are some examples:

“This is Matt, the person I’m dating.”

“This is Phoenix. We’ve been seeing each other for about a month.”

“Juniper and I have been spending a lot of time together recently.”

This is nice because you don’t need a label at all.

So, thanks again thy-page for a great question! Keep asking.

**

Happy new year from TIMP, everyone! Thank you for your many questions, both private and public. Thank you also for your patience with me as I caught up to my new post-Ph.D. defence life and had a big TIMP time-lag this fall.

I love writing this blog, but my only regret is that I don’t usually get to have ongoing conversations with anyone. Please feel free to comment far and wide on my posts, whether you agree or disagree with what I have offered. I would love to hear other points of view, which can only be helpful to people asking questions. I will get back to you, I promise.

My warmest wishes for a gender-inclusive (if not wholly gender-neutral) 2015,

Lee

We love introverts: Making ‘pronoun education’ easier for shy allies

storysummers asked:

“I identify as agender, and I’m having a hard time asking people to use they/them/their. My family is very introverted, and I always feel bad asking them to be in educator mode when they talk about me to strangers, or to switch back and forth (ex. I’m not totally out to my grandparents, so my family would have to remember to change to “she” around them.) Is it asking too much to put my family in perpetual educator mode for my sake?”

Hello storysummers!

I’m really glad you asked this question – I don’t come from an introverted family of origin by any stretch, but I’m lucky to have many introverts among my choice family and friends. I also wrote a post a while ago with tips on training yourself to change pronouns (for readers who are not GNP users); I began with the observation that, because we don’t usually refer to ourselves in the third person, a pronoun change can more greatly impact our friends and loved ones where everyday language use is concerned. So, I think you are being extremely kind and understanding.

First of all, I think it’s certainly not too much to ask because it’s something you need in order to feel how you want to feel, and your family presumably wants you to feel comfortable around them. However, pronoun change is awkward, and awkward things have a way of feeling like they are too much to ask. But that’s just the awkwardness talking. So, awkwardness aside, it is absolutely not too much to ask.

Readers share so much with me, and I like to share what I can in return. My family members have an unspoken free pass on doing pronoun work with people I don’t see very often (which includes, for me, my extended family and family friends who I don’t see very often on account of living far away). This is because I’ve made a degree of peace with the fact that I can’t make people do things when I’m not around, and moreover that it’s what happens to my face that makes me feel either whole or hollow. But this is just what works for me. I’m also helped by the fact that my name change though hard at first is now almost universally accepted, and I’m hardly ever gendered female/feminine by anyone (in non-pronoun ways), even by those who I know struggle with my pronoun when I’m not around.

What you might want to do is offer your close family members a few strategies that are introvert-friendly but still honour your needs. You could help them to practice using names instead of pronouns in sentences, which eliminates the need for gendered personal pronouns. It may also be helpful to give them some ways to refer to you in conversation with others  that are respectful of you but less jarring for people who are not used to hearing gender-neutral language. My dad calls me ‘my kid’ or ‘our youngest kid’ when he introduces me to people, for example, and I’ve never seen anyone bat an eyelash at this descriptor. Sometimes he calls me ‘my offspring’ but he’s an extrovert and a joker so this fits with his persona.

However, this doesn’t get at whether you want the people your family interacts with to change their language. If you do want your family to do the education, then perhaps reflect on and then talk to them about who it matters with, or, draw ‘the circle’ within which you need peoples’ language to change. Who do you need them to talk to about your pronouns (e.g., maybe their omnipresent best friend) and who can they let slide by (e.g., maybe the postal worker or a great-aunt you haven’t seen in ten years, etc.)? Sometimes having a sense of where the task ends (for the moment) can make people feel more of a sense of accomplishment, which makes them more likely to participate (teacher talking here). Also, once you have a sense of who it matters with, for you, you might even give your parents a few draft sentences to integrate into emails or other messages. Often peoples’ terror of saying ‘the wrong thing’ is more of an inhibition than the topic itself, so having ‘the right thing’ on hand and written by you could be both helpful and much-appreciated.

Overall, and speaking more broadly to the interwebs now, the degree to which we want or need our family to do pronoun education varies for each of us, but we are each entitled to ask for our particular threshold to be met by those we love. Reflecting on who is in ‘the circle’ drawn by this threshold can provide some practical tools for family members.

I hope this is helpful, and happy new year! Keep on asking.

Lee

VIDEO RESOURCE – What are pronouns?

This is a wonderful video created by the youth at Minus18 – Australia’s largest youth led organisation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* youth. They have a beautiful online and social media presence, including a pronoun app! An app! Check them out and give them any support you can.

On asking someone the ‘why’ question when they change pronouns

Anonymous asked:

“Hi so one of my friends recently asked me and some other friends to use female pronouns, despite me having used male for the year I have known them. I’m tempted to ask why the change? But I feel if that’s rude and uncalled for. Should I just leave it and not ask and if not, how would I go about asking?”

Hi Anonynmous!

This is a very good question, and I’m really glad you asked. Here are some things to consider in making your choice whether to ask or not (we’ll come to ‘how’ in a moment):

Do you and this friend have the kind of relationship where you talk about deeply personal things?

Have you and this friend ever spoken about gender issues before?

Is your question motivated by a deep-seated interest in her identity and process around making this very challenging and brave decision in her life, as well as a desire to offer her support in handling its ramifications?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, chances are you should leave it alone.

If you are indeed motivated by the interest and desire I mentioned – and not at all by plain curiosity – here is a way that you can open the door for your friend without demanding that she account for herself, to you:

“Hey. I want you to know that I’m interested in your process around this shift and your feelings about how it’s going and what led you here. If you ever feel as though you’d like to talk about it with me, I am so open to that and would like to offer you whatever support I can. However, I also completely respect your choice to never talk about it at all, with me, ever.”

Finally, if you feel like the offer of support would not be genuine or would just be something you can’t follow through on (due to lack of time, energy, capacity, knowledge, desire, etc. – fair enough) then once again I would say just leave it alone and make the requested language changes.

I really appreciate the question, and come back if you have more!

Lee

Start with affirmation: Coming out as a GNP user or gender non-normative person to a friend with little or no knowledge of gender issues

xlameprincessx asked:

“Uhm hi, i just found out about this blog and i wanted advice. I’m planning on “coming out” as demi-girl to one of my best friends and tell him my pronouns but i’m afraid he won’t understand or he’ll laugh at it. I don’t really know how to explain it to him, seeing as he doesn’t know about any other type of gender besides female and male. Do you have any tips??”

Hello xlameprincessx!

First of all, I just want to send you my very best energy for what you are about to do – it is brave and also a profound gesture of care for your friend (who I will call ‘F’ for friend). This is precisely where I suggest you begin: with a heartfelt statement of how much your friendship means to you, which is why you have chosen to share this part of yourself and take a big risk. Be honest that you know it is a risk, but that it is worth taking it for you because you care about F and about your friendship.

I suggest this because people sometimes need ‘cueing’ in order to be able to respond to something important in a way that reflects how important it really is. When we are uncomfortable, our default reaction – as you wisely note in your question – is often one of humour. Joking and laughter expell nervous energy and are desperate, often mindless attempts to de-escalate the seriousness of a situation or a request. By opening with your declaration of caring and by saying that what you will share is reflects your love/esteem/care for F and for your friendship, you are ‘cueing’ F into the fact that this is no laughing matter. It is serious business.

Time and place will also be important. Do you spend unstructured time with F, like, do you go sit in a park or field for hours or something similar? Try to have the conversation in a beautiful place with lots of open space: where F feels like they have space to move around and like their reactions are at least semi-private (crowded coffee shops and confined spaces aren’t really helpful). I would suggest that phone, text or online are also out: you want to make a connection with F’s humanity and kindness, in person, given that F doesn’t have any background knowledge.

Prepare yourself for F having questions, particularly in terms of how you want F to relate to you in public and refer to you in conversations with others. Do you need F to change pronouns, etc. for you now, or is this gradual? Will you tell others? How do you understand demi-girl and what does it mean to you? Are there things you have done together with F that are now off-limits or have to change? Be ready with a few concrete examples, if you can, of what you will need from F.

Also, is there anyone in your life who you have already come out to and who has reacted well and supportively? If so, I might suggest asking that person to be a ‘point person’ for F if F has questions or needs some support around the changes you are asking for. You can also feel free to direct F to me, if no.

Finally, there is always the chance that despite your mindfulness, preparation and best efforts, things might not go well with F. As best as you can, prepare for some good self-care afterwards. Have some time planned to do something nice or with someone you feel safe around, or at least have a safe space to go to, in case. If you would like resources of any kind, I am here.

Thank you for your question, and good luck!

Lee

Fearing partner rejection because of a gender-neutral pronoun request

theleviathanfromhell asked:

“Hey um a few nights ago I sent my boyfriend some pronouns I asked if he can use (xhe/xhim/xir and they) and he got somewhat confused, so I immediately backed out and told him never mind and all that. I’m a bit scared that if I ask him again he might refuse or reject that idea, or i’m wrong and he’ll accept it. I don’t know, i’m just nervous to ask him again. If you can, please tell me if you have any tips on this situation?”

Dear leviathanfromhell,

I’ll start by saying that this is tough. Rejection from the people closest too us – even more quiet kinds like skepticism or fatigue – can be devastating when we are asking for a pronoun change. This might particularly be the case for gender-neutral pronoun users because there isn’t a lot of public consciousness about usage or implications. So we end up doing more education than our hearts or souls can sometimes bear. All this is to say that I feel you.

I think there are two things going on here, based on the information you have provided. What do you think your boyfriend (who I will call B for…boyfriend) was confused about? Was it a reaction to the medium (‘sent’ implies text or email) and the lack of a face-to-face conversation about something pretty significant? Was it about gender-neutral pronouns in general, the particular pronouns you asked for (which are unfamiliar to most), or the implications that B may have presumed based on the request (that you might perhaps transition to some degree – a common assumption – and what this might mean for B or your relationship)? If gender hasn’t come up before in conversation, or if you hadn’t talked to B about your gender until this pronoun request, there may be many reasons for the confusion. (Here I’m making an assumption that your choice to use alt pronouns is connected to gender, which it isn’t always…if this is wrong I apologize.)

For others reading, I’m basically suggesting that a pronoun request coming ‘out of nowhere’ (at least in terms of how it might feel for someone receiving the request) is probably going to cause some confusion. This is basically a tactical issue in terms of how you plan the conversation.

That having been said, it is clear that B’s reaction gave you cause for fear and discomfort. This makes me think that you may have good reason to expect that B’s confusion isn’t the benign kind like being caught off-guard (this is the kind we can kind of manage with conversation tactics) but rather a pattern you are recognizing. While you try to figure out if B might reject you (and/or your request), think about how B generally speaks about pronouns, gender, trans people, etc. OR whether B tends to be supportive or not of new things or ideas you have (or that B’s friends or family members have). These could be equally telling. Alternately, it could be that you have experienced judgmental rejection before from others (friends, family or partners) and this is coming back to haunt you in B’s reaction which – and I know basically nothing here – could be just ordinary and not malevolent or prejudicial. What is firing your furnace of fear and discomfort?

Only you know what’s best here, leviathanfromhell. First, and only if you feel safe at at liberty to do so (like, rejection will not result in losing housing, financial or other support), you can choose to have the conversation again but differently (if you haven’t already…sorry for the lag-time this month). This way you can gauge, in person, the kind and degree of confusion B is having. You could also talk to mutual friends you trust and prepare for the chat. These friends could perhaps also be resources for B to practice or express their feelings about your pronoun change (which do exist, and to deny these just isn’t realistic).

If you don’t feel safe having the conversation again, it would be useful to think about whether you are willing or able to be in a relationship where your preferred pronouns aren’t used, or if you feel like you can’t ask for your needs to be met. It might take time to get it right, but while there is time being taken I hope you can feel like B is trying and being kind. As I have already suggested, though, it would be useful for you to think about whether this is coming from B or if it reflects an expectation that you bring into the relationship from prior experiences.

Hope that helps,

Lee

‘Singular they’ on TV! Fabulous Elisha Lim talks pronouns on Global TV Halifax

“Elisha Lim is an award winning artist, activist and filmmaker who is in Halifax for the OUTeast Film Festival, and shares a story about how a simple word changed their life.”

I’d add that, in my books, Elisha Lim is a singular they superhero. They led a  petition against Xtra, Toronto’s LGBT weekly newspaper when the paper refused to use Elisha’s chosen pronoun (you can read the strangely pronoun-less story here). At the time of the petition’s resolution, the paper’s editorial policy was still not to standardize they (any updates would be appreciated) but to use last names instead, over and over again. Also, Airton said Airton really enjoyed viewing the segment because Airton appreciated how Lim addressed many of Airton’s own concerns. Ha.

Elisha’s petition and other efforts have made a major contribution to the visibility of singular they as an option, particularly in Toronto queer and trans communities. For more Elisha, visit their awesome website.

 

What to do (on Facebook) when you think someone you know has changed pronouns

Anonymous asked:

“Years ago, one of my friends came out as trans and was using he/they as pronouns, but we totally lost touch. My friend recently reactivated their FB account with a different name (one sounding more traditionally “feminine”), and I want to reconnect and ask what pronouns they’re using but I’m not sure the best way to ask?”

Thanks for your question!

As someone who has switched pronouns in my life, I really like it when I get a break from doing some of the work of explaining and publicizing my needs, even to people I like or know well. So, I would first suggest that you have a look at this person’s FB wall. Are there people you know in common who are active Commenters or Likers or Taggers or who are in recently-dated photos with your friend (YF)? **Important…are these people who you knew in common at the time when YF identified as trans and used he/they? In other words, have these people persisted in YF’s life while YF’s gender expression and/or identity has changed (at least as far as you can tell from YF’s name change)? If so, I’d say a kind and mindful first step would be to ask one of these people, if you feel comfortable doing so.

The second option, of course, is to get in touch with YF with the intention of reconnecting and, well, reconnect. Asking how YF is doing and updating YF on your stuff doesn’t require that you use a gendered pronoun for YF! Chances are if YF is into rekindling your friendship YF will bring up their gender-related needs as you correspond.

I’d suggest doing either of these things before you might get in touch to ‘pop’ the pronoun question.

Hope that helps!

Lee

What does singular they mean to me?

Anonymous asked:

“Hi, I currently use the pronoun she/her and I have been thinking a lot about how it would feel for me to use the pronoun they. I feel like I don’t know what the pronoun they means, who belongs/who doesn’t, and how it works to describe gender. I was wondering what the pronoun they means to you and what associations you have with the pronoun they. Thanks!”

Why hello there!

I’ve made some comments below in response to others with similar concerns regarding who they belongs to and who has a right to use it. My general feeling is that, if using they makes you more comfortable, your comfort ought not to be judged valid or invalid by other people. I feel like the more people who use singular they and other gender-neutral pronouns – regardless of gender identity or expression – the easier usage will become.

As far as what it means to me, that is new blog territory. What do I want from people once they know my pronoun preference? Well…

What I want is a free pass from any and all assumptions about my ideas, work, play, hobbies, habits, life trajectory, plans, partners, underpants, decor preferences, beverages…you get the idea. I want an out from being over-determined by other people. It’s like “ok, so I don’t want to do girl things…but that also means that I might not want to do boy things either!” I want to be picky and choosy and difficult. In a perfect world – and I naively try to live like it’s already here – using ‘they’ would be a wake-up call to someone that gender will not help them relate to me, understand me, or make small talk with me at an awkward party. So let’s try something else, and also realize how even small things are almost always gendered male or female, as though everyone is entirely only one thing.

I associate ‘singular they’ with a space of freedom from having to contradict people or feel icky that they think they can tell me – even with questions – what or who I want, and what or who I like. If singular they can help someone do be freer from some of that stuff, and if being freer helps them to feel better or safer or happier, then I think using a gender-neutral pronoun might be a neat idea regardless of their gender identity or presentation. Of course, everyone will have varying degrees of success. But hopefully we will all have tiny oases where this freedom is actually found and nurtured.

Taking things further, I want everyone to have this freedom no matter which pronoun they use. Ideally, I’d like people to think about how our casual questioning of others – or reactions to things they say like ‘that’s a really big deal ’ or ‘that’s not a big deal at all’ – are so full of assumptions, even if it’s just “so…what do you do?” I mean…what if I don’t have a paying job? Am I supposed to, necessarily, in order to be someone you want to talk to? I really, really hope not. Singular they, then, is about gender for me but also about making language more open and friendly to…whatever is different from the norm.

Thanks for your question – it made me think!

Lee