Opinion

My Pronoun Matters

express Magazine
Written by express Magazine

Actor and Director Adam Rowe asks not to be defined by gender but respected as ‘me’.

My relationship with pronouns is messy. In fact, I find language as a whole to be fraught with potholes. Stay with me for a moment – things might get a bit tricky.

Words are the frames that we draw around things. They are not the things themselves. That seems kind of obvious but has really far-reaching connotations. I am not ‘Adam’, nor ‘he’ – I’m this amorphous ‘me’-thing that is outrageously undefinable. When I place a frame around me with any of these labels I immediately reduce my potential. So even though I’ve spent my entire life defining and redefining myself, there’s a part of me that resents the need to be labelled at all. There’s quite an irony in that.

What then is the use of these labels? Why are they important, and how can we use them as tools rather than chains?

The way we frame an idea changes how we behave towards it. If you believe your mother is “mental” you’ll behave towards her very differently than if she is “liberal and unconstrained.” A “usurper” is different than a “revolutionary”. A “devil” different than a “clown”. Each of these are frameworks that we can place around the same thing, and each will radically alter the way the world interfaces with it. That is the power of a pronoun.

Gender is an incredibly powerful and far-reaching social construct. Regardless of your level of education and awareness around its effects, there are ways that your gender (and the way your gender is perceived) affect you that run more deeply than you’ll be able to recognize. Us gender rebels are trying to riff on all those expectations and behaviours – and a pronoun is one of our greatest weapons to do so.

When we ask you to change the pronoun you use to conceptualize us, we are asking you to subvert your understanding and rewrite your expectations. In doing so, you simultaneously get to rewrite your expectations of gender as a whole. Obviously, this kind of shift takes huge mental energy and will bring up resistance in people. There’s an idea that you had of the person (and the construct) that is being challenged. But I promise you this: no matter how well you know a person, they know themselves better.

Also – it’s not actually necessary for you to understand something in order to show it respect.

Here is the easiest rule I’ve found when it comes to pronouns. Call people what they ask to be called. It needn’t be any more complicated than that.

About the author

express Magazine

express Magazine

express is New Zealand's leading LGBT+ publication. Our goal is to inform and support our community by delving into relevant people, stories and events.

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