Addressing a Person with Appropriate Transgender Pronouns

Diverse Group of People

It’s important to each of us that we know ourselves, and that others do as well.  Two of our basic needs in life are to be acknowledged, and to be heard.

When a person moves from one gender and/or identity to another, it’s a big deal.  There is a sense of freedom in this newfound authenticity.

Good manners and etiquette ask that we address a person as they would prefer.  Any person who changes his/her name for whatever reason hopes and expects to be addressed by that name along with appropriate substitute pronouns.

But this isn’t always as easy as it seems.

Pronoun Challenges

A name is a proper noun and deserves a proper pronoun reference.  “He” and “She” are used as representative of a person’s name, with a possible exception of the person who goes by a unisex or non-traditional name.

For example: Margaret Jones will be referenced as “she” while David Jones is referenced as “he.”  However, unless you personally know Taylor Jones, you have a fifty-fifty chance of using the correct pronoun.

A popular trend to cover all genders and identities is using “their, they, or them” when referencing an individual.  As many of us were taught in school, these are plural pronouns.  But as you can see in this video (also shown below), language and grammar evolve just as everything else in life.

One issue with this trend, however, is when someone is identifying physically and in name as a man or woman.  Hearing someone announce to a crowd, “We appreciate that Bob is here today to share their ideas,” doesn’t make sense when you see only one individual, and not a group, named Bob.

If there is confusion about a person’s identity status, appearance isn't helpful, and you have no idea how the person is identifying, stick with using the person’s name.  Once over-used, he/she/they will likely clue you in!

When Mistakes Happen

As etiquette and courtesy requires of us, if a mistake occurs, we should always give the other person the benefit of the doubt in assuming it was not ill-intended.  

When a person is, for example, introducing someone who has transgendered and knew that person before he/she did so, the person making the introduction might make a pronoun mistake and correct it right away.
“He, I mean she, is a knowledgeable sommelier.”

It is prudent and kind to forgive the person for this innocent mistake.  

Good manners and etiquette also require that we try not to damage other people in our process of getting things right or clear.   Unless you know someone very well and can do so privately, it would not be friendly to begin a discussion on their identity or any personal details.

The most important etiquette rule is to be sensitive to who a person is and to be respectful of the important life choices a person has made.  

We are all taking on the challenges of being ourselves.  Being sensitive to another person shows that you care.


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