Dear Queer: Pronoun Problems

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Mollie Whuppie /// Staff Writer

Dear Queer,

My professor misgenders me—sometimes in front of the class—and uses the wrong pronouns. What can I do?

Signed, Pro-Nouns

Dear Pro-Nouns,

I’m so sorry to hear that you’re being disrespected like that in your class. You deserve to feel validated, comfortable, and safe in your classes just like anyone else. Being misgendered can be embarrassing, frustrating and very hurtful even if the person responsible simply does not know your pronouns or gender.

Your best bet is to email the professor or go talk during office hours. If you are concerned about other students being present when this conversation takes place, ask to schedule an appointment to avoid people coming and going while you discuss personal matters. Try saying: “You might not know this, but I actually go by [fill in your pronouns] and identify as [fill in your gender if comfortable].” If they are receptive to this, thank them and ask them to try to remember during class. If either you or your professor have any questions about this, direct them to the Queer Resource Center or to Cathy Busha, the former director IME and current Associate Dean of Student Engagement. You do not need to be responsible for educating your professor on this matter.

Sometimes, this interaction can be hard to do in person because you have either known the professor for some time or you have never really met them. If possible, before classes start send an introductory email so that the professor can avoid using your legal name and/or misgendering you from the beginning.

Chances are there are some people in your class (or some people who will take a class with that professor at a later date) who might experience the same discomfort you do. Request that professors (especially in smaller classes with emphasis on discussions) ask pronouns in addition to name and year when the students introduce themselves. This opens the door for other students who might be too afraid to bring up the topic. It’s as simple as “Hi, I’m Mollie and I use she/her.”

If you know of a friend being misgendered, speak to them privately and offer to talk to the professor with them or for them IF AND ONLY IF THEY AGREE. Keep in mind that not everyone is fully public with their gender identity, and may prefer some people not know.

Here are some things the QRC is doing to help educate professors, faculty and students about respecting gender identity and expression:

  • At the beginning of each semester we try to send out emails to professors and staff about this issue and we post templates online for students to email to their professors.
  • We begin meetings with any new people (like when we talk to administrators at the school) by asking pronouns to model how easy it is to do in a group setting.
  • We are currently working on a handy flyers reiterating the need for professors to respect their students’ pronouns with educational information for how to best do that. We will be posting them and making sure there is at least one in every classroom and  professor’s office.

We reach out to professors and offer assistance with using the correct pronouns and educating them about queer and trans issues so that they can stay informed about the issues affecting their students.

I know that LC professors care about their students, but I also know that the issue of respecting gender is only beginning to be understood by them. They have all received communication from the QRC about proper pronoun usage. Some professors have more experience with non-binary and trans students, while others are less informed. Regardless, professors who continue to misgender their students alienate, endanger and disempower those students who sometimes need the most support.

I hope that your professor chooses to use their power to enforce a respectful and supportive learning environment. Good luck!

 

Your Queer,

Mollie Whuppie & Friends

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