Hi Arielle,

Thanks for sharing your feelings around the use of gendered language, and pronouns in particular.

If I understand correctly, it sounds like your pronouns are anything but “they/them”. That must be hard to communicate in an email signature or during an introduction merry-go-round.

Before you imagine that these moments are harmful to other people too, I would ask you to consider what it would be like if “they/them” is what people had been calling you since birth.

My deadname and assigned-gender pronouns were the strongest part of the gaslight that kept me incarcerated for 40 years. When they are repeated “at” me now, I often have a trauma response. I can be incapacitated by them.

So with this in mind, I’d like to draw attention to an expression in your opening sentence.

“Preferred pronouns”

My pronouns are she/her. They are not a flavour of ice-cream which I prefer over another. They are not a sunny day which I prefer to a rainy day. They are my pronouns. Others have a freedom to ignore them, but they don’t get to minimise the impact of that choice by labelling them as my “preference”.

It’s been argued widely that the phrase is a microagression. Well, for me anyway, that doesn’t capture the horror of it. I’ve climbed the highest mountain to be who I am and labelling some part of my identity a “preference”, like it were a drinks order, is to deeply misunderstand its importance to me.


Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram

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Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram