Ask me about my pronouns

Dana Walden, Opinion Editor

I refuse to wear a pronoun pin. Ever since pronoun pins have become so popular, we’ve stopped talking about pronouns almost altogether. These pins effectively shut down communication about pronouns unless your pin says “Ask Me About My Pronouns,” in which case, no one ever does. We take the pins to be the definitive designation of our identities; if someone chooses not to wear pronoun pins, as I do, we assume they are cis-gendered. 

This makes pronoun pins nearly mandatory for trans and gender non-conforming people if they wish to be recognized in the public sphere. While pronoun pins are all but required for some queer folk, they have also become, for lack of a better word, trendy. They are no longer necessarily a sign of dedication to the normalization of trans identity, but a sign that you are stylish and socially aware. 

When we wear them without realizing their impact, we do a disservice to those the pins were created for. Pronoun pins ultimately favor cis-gendered people because it gives them social capital, while it potentially diminishes the status of trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) folk.

Clearly, these pins aren’t enough. They are not meant to be a political statement, no matter how politicized queer bodies are, and they are certainly not meant to be a fashion statement, no matter how creative they are.

Wearing a pronoun pin to show that you are a fine, upstanding white liberal trivializes the purpose of the pins as much as it supports the cause.  They have become so commodified, so fashionable, that the presence of pronoun pins seem to dilute their relevancy. For several on this campus, these pronoun pins are about liberal aesthetic more than they’re about, you know, pronouns. 

Pronoun pins are not “woke.” They are a product of a society where we are forced to define ourselves, a society that necessitates labeling. They are a product of a society that punishes those who don’t fit neatly into categories, or those who deny the existence of those categories altogether. Pronoun pins are about survival, about challenging gender expectations and creating a space for marginalized bodies in this world. 

Your pronoun pin does not excuse you from doing the hard work of being an ally. It is not a stand-in for any real action that needs to be taken on campus to promote the equitable treatment of trans and GNC folk. I still hear casual and deliberate misgendering; I still see instances of transphobia in the classroom; I still feel a general apathy around queer and trans rights at Whitman. 

I am not trying to dissuade you from wearing your pronoun pin — far from it. Pronoun pins matter, which is why wearing one should not be a trend to follow, but a commitment to keep. Wear your pronoun pin because you are ready and willing to have a conversation about it. Wear your pronoun pin, only if you can back it up with actions. Wear your pronoun pin, but don’t stop there. Ask me about my pronouns.