Pronoun badges: why they are so important
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Edinburgh University Student's Association recently attracted criticism for encouraging their new students to wear pronoun badges during freshers week, but what's the problem? For the vast majority of people, we don’t even have to think about our pronouns. When we go out and someone refers to us by “he” or “she”, it doesn’t make us uncomfortable, doesn’t disrespect our identities and doesn’t cause us any dysphoria. We are happy to let people assume our gender because we present in a certain way and we’re not trans. Indeed the vast majority of the population are cisgender, or 'cis', meaning that the gender you were assigned at birth matches the gender you identify as. For example, I was assigned female at birth and I identify as a woman and use she/her pronouns. I also present in a fairly feminine way and never have to worry about being mistaken for another gender. I write this article knowing that the above facts mean I am in a very privileged position to talk about an issue that doesn’t necessarily affect me directly. However, I have worked closely with a number of transgender people throughout my university career, making an effort to educate myself, and have come to realise what exactly the role of an ally is in transgender liberation. If someone is transgender, or 'trans', they identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Trans people can often identify as another binary gender, for example where a transgender woman was assigned male at birth, but many do not feel like they fit within the binary confines of ‘man’ or ‘woman’. These people are known as non-binary, and there are a huge number of identities that come under this umbrella; gender is very fluid and non-binary identities can vary hugely. If I decided to cut my hair short and present in a more masculine fashion, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable correcting people who misgendered me as a man as this is one of the privileges afforded to me as a cis woman. However, many trans and non-binary people do not have this privilege. Transphobia is rife in our society, especially in recent years where a small minority of women in the Labour Party have left the party over the move to allow trans women to stand on all-women shortlists. Equally, with almost half of transgender pupils in the UK attempting suicide, it’s clearly a huge issue. Trans people can come up against incredible hostility for merely existing, something cis people like myself can’t even fathom. This is where pronoun badges come in. For cis people, pronouns may seem relatively unimportant.
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