We spoke to Non-Binary Lancs students about ‘International Pronouns Day’
‘A lot of people don’t even think it’s a real thing’
The third Wednesday of October gives way to International Pronouns Day, a day which seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about alternative pronouns commonplace in the world. This year it falls on October 21st. Happy International Pronouns Day everyone!
For a lot of people, the concept of non-binary pronouns is still quite foreign, and many just aren’t that educated about it. The Lancaster Tab spoke to two non-binary Lancaster students: Meg Horridge, a third year English Literature and Creative Writing students; and Kiera Durston, a second-year Psychology student, to discuss their pronouns, the difficulties they face, and how everyone can educate themselves to make the University a better place for non-binary people.
“You call someone by their name because that’s what they told you their name was, why is it not the same for pronouns?”
Both Meg and Kiera use they/them pronouns and have distanced themselves from the female sex with which they were assigned at birth, with Kiera even wanting to appear more masculine. Praises have been sung for Meg and Kiera’s friends, as well as certain members of their families, who have easily taken to using their proper pronouns and did so without any fuss. Kiera said: “My friends have been amazing and totally accepted it, and my dad was incredible. He said he already knew what non-binary was because he’s so ‘woke'”.
We asked Meg and Kiera why they think using people’s preferred pronouns is important to do. Meg says that using the correct pronouns is all about respect: “People will apologise profusely if they misgender a dog, but happily use the wrong pronouns for a person. Using the wrong pronouns intentionally just shows that you don’t respect the person. You call someone by their name because that’s what they told you their name was, why is it not the same for pronouns?”
Kiera agrees that it’s about respect, and adds: “It doesn’t affect you to have to use them, whereas it greatly affects people who want to use those pronouns. It will help them feel more comfortable in themselves,” a common courtesy that we all should be given.
“It kind of makes me feel sick to my stomach, I get really uncomfortable”
Upon meeting someone who appears outwardly female, most people would assume that their pronouns would be she/her. This is known as being misgendered, and while a lot of the time it’s an innocent mistake, it’s also one that’s easily avoidable by asking for someone’s correct pronouns beforehand. Med told us: “It’s completely normal to not be used to using they/them if you’ve never known someone using those pronouns before. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s pretty easy to tell the people who are trying from those who aren’t.”
Even so, misgendering someone, even unintentionally, can be quite a harming and uncomfortable experience and can lead to lots of awkwardness. Meg has been misgendered on multiple occasions and said: “It’s just difficult to find the right time to correct them, especially without making them feel like I’m attacking them.” Kiera expresses a similar sentiment: “It kind of makes me feel sick to my stomach, I get really uncomfortable. I kind of just want to correct them, but at the same time it feels rude. When people ask it makes me feel really safe and accepted.”
“I think university allows people to actually be themselves and kind of reinvent themselves with new people”
Luckily, Lancaster University is an open-minded and accepting space. Kiera was very pleased to discover that the University included a “non-binary” gender option when they went to re-register for the current year. Kiera said: “I feel like a lot of the acceptance is due to forums like the LGBTQ+ and Women+ forums doing a lot of work for non-binary people.”
Not only is the University an accepting place for people of all gender identities and sexualities, it’s great place to meet similar people. Meg, who has met many more people from the LGBTQ+ and non-binary community since starting University, said: “Before coming to university I only met one other non-binary person. I think university allows people to actually be themselves and kind of reinvent themselves with new people.”
“A lot of people don’t even think it’s a real thing”
Although alternative gender identities and people who use them have existed for a while, it’s still quite a new idea for a lot of people, especially older generations, and these people have a hard time understanding this new reality. We asked Meg and Kiera to give some advice to the people who are trying to learn but still struggling. “Ask questions! It’s important to talk to people if you can, and as long as you’re willing to accept any ignorance or assumptions you had you won’t offend them.”
Meg and Kiera agree that, whether or not you fully understand it, even after asking questions, it’s important to accept it: “Even if you don’t understand it, you should still accept it the same way not everyone understands but accepts complicated science.” Kiera continued to say: “A lot of people don’t even think it’s a real thing.”
“You don’t have to understand non-binary people to accept them”
Here’s Kiera’s agenda for this International Pronouns Day: “Just keep trying to be as open minded and understanding as possible of others identities! Don’t stop educating yourself and others.” Meg added to this and said: “You don’t have to understand non-binary people to accept them.”
So today, and every other day of the year, remember to ask your non-binary friends questions, continue to educate yourself and be prepared to be wrong at times. That’s okay, we’re all wrong sometimes, don’t take it to heart and accept that there will be things you don’t know, but you can always ask and learn from your mistakes.