Coming Out from Closet(ed) Doors The Rise of Non-Binary Pronouns
Pauline Marie C. Arada
The wind howled and the tree branches scraped the window of a little boy’s room. Huddled under the covers, he wished for the storm to be over—a little hope to fall asleep. Eyes shut, as the thunder rumbled and the rain fell heavily on the roof. A tall, hideous creature peeked through his closet door; eyes wide open—its hand crept out. The young one wanted to turn on the lights but he stayed still; the creature slowly grinned. Grasping the fabric of bedsheets, he buried his face in it. Its androgynous features scared him, but its iridescent crimson eyes made him want to believe otherwise.
And when he looked astonished, that’s when it came out of the closet.
ANDROGYNOUS DEMEANOR BETWEEN SEX AND GENDER
History has it that gender construction starts with the assignment to a sex category; “Male” and “Female” terms automatically kicked in. As perhaps being decreed by many, the organization of society has to be assigned with a name; how a person dresses displays the category with which that person belongs to as to avoid gender confusions.
“Sex refers to the biological make-up of the individuals or their physical attributes while gender refers to the differences in the societal expectations of what is to be a male or to be a female. Sex is fixed, unless manipulated, while gender is not,” stated Dr. Edwin Samis, Academic Supervisor of Social Science Department with the Augustinian.
Gender is culturally defined. Sociologists are one in saying that culture is varied, therefore its definition differs from one society to another. It is also not innate; it is not genetically inherited, rather it is prescribed by societal norms.
“Sex refers to physical or physiological differences between males and females, including both primary sex characteristics (the reproductive system) while Gender Identity is a personal conception of oneself or how you see your true self. Gender is not just an individual experience, but also a social institution,” claimed Mr. Katchry Evan Galleto, USA Senior High School Faculty member with the Augustinian.
Normalizing pronouns and using correct pronouns leads to the acceptance and de-stigmatization of individuals who “deviate” from traditionally used pronouns or pronouns that do not align with their physical appearance or gender-based name. A person’s pronouns are directly correlated with their gender identity and when their preferred pronouns are respected, it immediately equates to validating their gender identity.
“For some, members of the LGBTQ+ are considered weird or unnatural, so it makes sense that the simple act of correctly referring to someone using their preferred pronouns is deemed a difficult task to accomplish,” said Rocel Angelah Songano, the reigning Miss USA, who believes it is hard to normalize asking pronouns because of the stigma that revolves around LGBTQ community.
Songano admitted that she was not exactly open with disclosing her chosen pronouns such as “she” and “they” because of the lack of normalcy around the spectrum of gender. The inclusion of preferred pronouns shows that it is not something to ignore, even if the gender matches the sex.
“In the Philippines, I believe it’s because it’s deeply engraved into our culture, especially since the mass of our population is conservative and Christian. This, in turn, discourages anyone to partake in anything that relates to the LGBTQ+ community. I acknowledge that it’s going to take a long time for our society to accept and normalize the fact that not everyone resonates with the pronoun assigned to them,” explained Songano.
Diversity of gender is a product of both sex; identities are already innate and the influence of social factors greatly affect in self-discovery.
“This is where we’ll know that gender is fluid—that can also justify that fluidity is normal and fluidity exists which is why we only stick to a binary concept of gender, but since society is in a permanent state of flux, the liberal ideas, feminist movements, pride march and such events can contribute to accept the reality of gender fluidity and diversity,” explained Galleto.
Galleto claimed to have been living in a patriarchal society that has been enforced with male dominance and control over all facets has also become a huge issue; such as heterosexism which is still relevant up to this day. The institutionalization of heterosexual norm or standard which establishes and perpetuates the notion of male-female sexuality and relationship has excluded the needs, concerns, identities, and life experiences of LGBTQ+ people.
“This heterosexism is very much damaging since women are supposed to be LGBTQ+ allies and who often experienced sexism—this too, has become a part of a larger denial of identity of the LGBTQ+ people,” pointed-out Galleto.
Some of the relevant issues also involve toxic masculinity. In its strongest term, the Journal of School of Psychology defines toxic masculinity as “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.”
“The hardcore advocates of toxic masculinity intensify the dividing line between a man and a woman. And in many cases, they would insist that the use of a “he” is more appropriate than a “she” when referring to the generic pronoun. The same is true with gender. Prominent biases in defining masculinity and femininity are always highlighted,” stated Dr. Samis.
Such issues like heterosexism and toxic masculinity should not be tolerated as this is destroying the whole aim of a humane society. Galleto even mentioned what Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave and abolitionist once opined, “No person can put a chain about the ankle of another without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”
Hence, this sense of urgency has asserted that just a simple act of indirectly misgendering a person; to enforce for the binary gender norm whilst denying the gender diversity would not just disrespect or alienate the LGBTQ+ community, but it also corrupts the humanity of heterosexuals.
LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT
Normalizing the use of a person’s preferred pronouns is a substantial way of minimizing harm for those who are transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary. According to WomenforWomen.org, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be found among some of the most vulnerable people in our community as they can be subjected to gender-based violence, which is defined as “physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or educational deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life.” Therefore, respecting a person’s preferred pronouns is a way to reduce harm against the LGTBQ+ community.
“Consider me a vintage; a remnant of the past but I strongly believe that what we were born with except for intersex, should be nurtured and be strengthened. It’s a gift of nature,” asserted Dr. Samis.
The way a person presents themselves physically does not always reveal their gender identity. One’s gender identity is the “personal sense of one’s own gender,” as perceived by Dr. Samis whether masculine, feminine, both or neither. With that, a person with a beard is not always a man and a person wearing a dress is not always a woman.
“It’s important because it uplifts respect—respect in terms of identity and respect in the sense of solidarity. Everyone has the right to be who they truly are and to love who they choose to love, and in a world full of hate, selfishness and greed, love is what we need now, more than ever,” inferred Songano.
Acts such as asking one’s pronouns or stating them in our social media bios can help create normalcy around the concept. It’s a substantial way of minimizing harm for those who are transgender, genderqueer and non-binary.
“It is a sign of respect for me, if we don’t start making simple steps like this, there will always be a person that will be misgendered and will be psychologically violated by denying their identity and existence whether intentional or not. Normalizing things like this is a stepping stone for an equal and colorful world,” shared Galleto. From the stonewall and the birth of gay and lesbian liberation up to the modern era of pride march, LGBTQ+ people are no longer silent—they are bound with bravery and truism. The bravery that exposes them to risk, but also as a source of strength to themselves, their friends, and families.
“I want everyone to be brave enough, to fight for a fair world, to fight for their true identity, to fight against gender norms, discrimination, and bigotry. I want everyone to be respected regardless of anything,” concluded Galleto.
Now as the adrenaline pumps in the veins of the young one—what seemed to be hideous is just the bare truth of what it takes to embrace the warmth of acceptance and freedom. The young boy whose eyes brightened up with pride rather than agitated, didn’t turn the lights. Afterall what he just witnessed speaks volumes of solidarity.
Published: April 25, 2022