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Out Alliance workshop breaks down pronouns

Caitlin Whyte

Oct. 17 is recognized as International Pronoun Day, and a workshop at the Out Alliance in Rochester helped show people respectful ways to address one another.

The lunchtime class was taught by Kayden Miller and Eridan Maeder, both members of the education team at the Alliance.

Pronouns, traditionally "she" and "he," are the ways we as a society define and discuss each other. But those who don’t identify as a "she" or a "he," turn to gender-neutral words to anchor their identities, such as "they" or "ze."

Grammatically, referring to a single person as "they" goes against everything we learned in elementary school, but Eridan says it’s really not that different from the way people talk already.

"Using the examples of like, 'Someone left their cellphone, I hope they get it back,' we've been using these words without actually realizing it. Even if, when we think about it we realize, oh grammar that doesn’t make sense, but we do it without thinking."

Eridan, who identifies as they, says a woman at the Alliance couldn’t figure out how to use the pronouns they chose, so they gave this example.

"And then I told her the trick, 'Oh, pretend there’s a little mouse in my pocket.' And she was able to think of us as two separate things so the they would then made sense. So it’s very much about reaching people halfway."

While addressing a single person with correct pronoun usage was the focus of the workshop, group situations were also discussed, like ways to move past gender-based words like "guys" and "dude" when talking to a group of people. Suggestions: "everyone," "y’all" or "folks."

Eridan says using correct pronouns is an issue of safety and respect. For them, when someone uses the proper pronoun to address them, it’s validating, and makes them immediately more comfortable around that person.

So when it comes to introductions, they offer some tips: Offer your own pronouns to open the conversation, ask, "How can I respectfully address you today?" and if you do misgender someone, apologize and move forward.