Being an Ally: How to Use Pronouns and Names

Welcome back, Lakeside!

As a new school year begins and we welcome old and new faces into our halls, it’s important that we know how to properly address those around us. We always aim to create an inclusive space at Lakeside where everyone feels valued, so in my first-ever column, Cassia’s Corner, I’m going to be talking about pronouns, gender identity, and name changes. But what are those things and how do they play into the school year? First, we have to create an outline: 

It’s never harmful to ask, but it’s harmful to assume.”

What are Pronouns?

Pronouns are, simply put, words we use to refer to things. This could be anything from “it” to “she” to “we” to “they.” Everyone uses pronouns all the time; they’re unavoidable functions of any language. While we use pronouns for the things in the world around us, we also use pronouns for ourselves. These are gender pronouns and are used specifically when talking about a singular person. The ones you may have heard of are “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them.” However, there are many other pronouns people may use; these are called neopronouns, which fill the place of “she,” “he,” or “they” when referring to someone. An example of a neopronoun would be “ze/zir,” but there are an infinite number out there, so if someone uses a pronoun for themself that you don’t understand, remember to ask. It’s never harmful to ask, but it’s harmful to assume.

It’s important to note that not everyone uses only one pronoun set! You may hear people defining their pronouns as “she/they” “they/he” or any pronouns; these are just a few examples of many. When someone uses two or more pronoun sets, you can use all the sets presented, so if someone uses “she/they” pronouns, you can use “she/her” and “they/them” pronouns when referring to that person. It should also be noted that people who use multiple pronoun sets will often put their preferred pronoun set at the front (eg. if someone uses “they/she” pronouns, they might prefer they/them pronouns over she/her pronouns, but still use both sets.) However, this isn’t the same for everyone, so it’s really important to ask.

Correct people (and yourself) when they’re wrong about someone’s name and pronouns; this small action means a lot to the trans people of our community.”

Name Changes:

In addition to people’s pronouns changing, you may see people changing their names as well. For example, at the beginning of last school year, I started going by both the names “Cassia” and “Cam.” For me, this was because I identify as genderqueer and felt that one name wasn’t enough to encapsulate my gender identity. I still use both names and don’t have a preference towards either one; they both fit me, and I like hearing both when being referred to. 

Everyone who changes their name has a different reason for doing it, and while it may be difficult to understand people wanting to change their name and pronouns, it’s something we need to respect, even if it’s something we can’t understand. 

When referring to those who have changed their name, simply use the name they prefer to go by. Correct people (and yourself) when they’re wrong about someone’s name and pronouns; this small action means a lot to the trans people of our community. 

So as we start a new school year at Lakeside, keep in mind that this can be a tough and scary time for those who are re-entering school with different pronouns or a different name. Let’s do our best to be an ally to those around us this year, ask questions to better our understanding, and respect the identities of those around us, even if it’s difficult for us to understand them.