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LBGTQIA + Community: Pronouns Honor Identity

Can you imagine constantly being called by the wrong name? That's what some say it's like to be misgendered. Those in the LGBTQIA plus community and their allies say a big part of seeing someone for who they are is using the pronouns the person identifies with.

WKAR’s Laura Michels sat down with students at Michigan State University to get their take on why language matters.

It’s a weekday morning on the campus of Michigan State University. Rhys Sirna lies tucked inside an oversized purple pillow on the floor, dissecting an episode of the Bachelor. A friend sits on either side. 

In this moment, Rhys is free from the burden of others’ assumptions.

"When people do misgender me, it's something that I know is going to happen, it's something that I know is going to happen like probably for the rest of my life," says Sirna. 

Rhys talks to us from a cozy room inside MSU’s Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Resource Center. Here, students hope to be recognized for who they are. That includes their pronouns.

"The way that I dress like how long my hair is, like how I act and like what spaces I’m in, people assume what pronouns to use for me even though that’s not necessarily what I use," says Rhys. 

Rhys is with TransAction, a MSU group for the transgender community. Instead of the traditional he or she pronouns, Rhys identifies with the pronouns they, them, or theirs.

"Personally I use they, them because it's not necessarily like gendered in a way that fits into like the man woman gender binary, because I don’t associate myself within that gender binary," says Rhys. 

Nick Royal is the coordinator at MSU’s LBGT Resource Center.

"There is this binary. Someone who looks like  "a man" uses he someone who looks like "a woman" uses she. And then if there's a big group of people you use they, them, their. That’s really nice when you are growing up but the world is messier than that right," says Royal. 

Messier also within LGBTQIA plus community says MSU student Julia Gray who says she’s been out since 8th grade.

"You are not just like you know able to say I’m gay I can say whatever I want, you know what I mean? You also have to constantly be educating yourself. That’s something I learned growing up through this community as it's constantly evolving," says Gray. 

That evolution includes ways to foster inclusiveness says Nick Royal.

"A really simple one is put your pronouns at the bottom on your email. What that does is one, it signifies your pronouns but it also starts the conversation. Two, you can introduce yourself with your pronouns. We do it here all the time, I do it in my life all the time. On job interviews I say 'hey, my name's Nick, I use he, him, his pronouns,'" says Royal. 

Gestures like these can foster connection says Sirna. 

"Like today I said my pronouns in class and somebody else was like I also use they, them pronouns. I was like 'oh, whoa' this is like the kind of community that I like need sometimes," says Sirna.  

A community where pronouns can connect and feel like  home.

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