PATRICIA WEBER, Staff Writer
My name is Patricia Weber. I prefer when people use gender neutral pronouns when referring to me. Ze for he/she, zer for his/her, and zerself for himself/herself. I am the on-campus activism chair for the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, which is known as the Alliance on campus. I created the posters on campus asking about pronouns. Why did I decide this was important enough to make posters and write a Round Table article?
Gender identity is how one feels about and expresses one’s gender. Pronouns are a part of a person’s gender identity. Gender is a social construct that is defined by characteristics of how a person acts, feels, thinks, etc. It is a complicated term but gender is not to be confused with sex, the biology of the person (male, female, intersex). Sex is used to describe the genitals one has and how their brain functions as male/female/intersex. Simple definitions just for this article: sex is biological and gender is a social construct.
It is important to ask a person which pronouns they prefer because it represents their identity in your speech. Asking a person what pronouns they use can be the first step in breaking the gender binary, the idea that everyone is either male or female, and the assumptions we have of a person’s gender from first meeting. For instance, when someone first meets me, they see a woman because I have feminine features, but the person does not know for sure how I feel inside with the first glance. They may soon start to use female pronouns as a result of the assumption. If the person had asked me what pronouns I used, I would have told them gender neutral pronouns for the reasons that I do not want to be seen as any gender, but instead I want to be viewed as a person. My gender tends to be fluid and I feel queer on the inside.
The next time you meet someone new, ask them which pronouns they prefer. You may meet people who do not understand why you are asking or may feel insulted, but these are few among many people who would feel happy that you asked that question. It may take awhile to break the gender binary up but just keep in mind that everyone is still learning about gender and sexuality and breaking socialization is a slow process.