by Ace Hobfoll
Personal pronouns are important.
This shouldn’t even be a discussion anymore. Asking pronouns isn’t a burden; it’s not something you can skip over because you don’t feel like dealing with it. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 78 percent of transgender students in K-12 schools have reported verbal harassment from fellow students, teachers, and school staff. Schools are meant to be safe havens for students.
Teachers and students alike at Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) act like pronouns are a burden they’re forced to endure time and time again. If you’re going to put forth the effort to ask for pronouns at the beginning of the semester, use them; otherwise, asking becomes an empty gesture done to appease the school board.
There are teachers who are committed to respecting pronouns.
“As a teacher it’s part of our job to make students feel safe and included, it’s just what you do,” said ChiArts English teacher Filip Lewandowski.
Students take notice when teachers make an effort.
“It’s kind of getting there like in my conservatory class more teachers ask, it’s slowly getting there,” said Raul Palido, a sophomore musician.
Lewandowski is among many teachers at ChiArts who get it right. Unfortunately, there are still too many who are getting it wrong.
“A lot of times academic teachers are respectful, but I’ve noticed quite a few conservatory teachers don’t ask,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous.
Forgetting someone’s pronouns doesn’t make you a bad person; just correct yourself and move on. It’s not a trans person’s job to continue to remind you. It’s your responsibility.
I’ve heard cis-gender students say, “I don’t care what pronouns you use for me.” Start to care. If you continue with this rhetoric, it makes it seem like pronouns are just there to be there, to fill some sort of void. Being this kind of “ally” is harmful to the transgender community; it makes it seem like being trans is a phase that we’ll eventually grow out of.
This also doesn’t mean you can’t be uncomfortable or upset, but you can’t just focus all your anger on one person for an honest mistake.