At the beginning of classes, students and teachers should include pronouns in introductions and teachers should have an option for students to use names not in the school’s database. Allowing students options to express their identities and assuring a safe environment for them will help foster LGBTQ+ inclusion and help students with mental health.
Asking for pronouns during introductions will prepare cisgender students for workplace environments or daily life where they will probably encounter transgender people and help them become more inclusive. If students at this formative stage in life were taught about the importance of pronouns and had gender neutral pronouns normalized, when they meet someone later in life who is transgender they will be more accepting of them because of their positive exposure. By teaching high school students how to communicate about pronouns, then that will benefit their future friends, family, and coworkers who need to communicate about their pronouns.
A research team at the University of Texas found that when transgender students are referred to by their correct name there is a directly correlated drop in suicidal thoughts and depression. Normally transgender youth report suicidal thoughts at twice the rate of cisgender students, but with even one outlet — work, school, home — to use the correct name, the risk of a student having suicidal thoughts dropped 29%. By encouraging students to use the name that best fits their identity, Rocky could potentially save lives.
Furthermore, misgendering a student can be painful, saddening, and distracting. A student cannot be expected to focus if their identity is being undermined by peers or faculty. The Human Rights Campaign says, “A culture that readily asks or provides pronouns is one committed to reducing the risk of disrespect or embarrassment for both parties.”
By specifically disclosing who pronouns can be shared with, teachers would be educated about student safety and therefore benefit students. Often, transgender students are not out to parents, friends, or the school administration. With the option for students to disclose which of these areas they use the correct pronouns, teachers can protect student safety and privacy. Students will be more likely to share their pronouns and correct names with teachers, reducing the previously mentioned suicide risk.
Asking for pronouns and correct names is easy to implement. The personal pronoun “they” is already used in everyday life. For example, “The mailman came while you were out. Oh, what did they bring?” Nonbinary pronouns are also not grammatically incorrect according to Webster Dictionary which specifies that “they” can be used as a pronoun for someone who identifies as nonbinary.
This worksheet is easy to use, inclusive, and will help teachers get an accurate read on how to refer to students with parents and other teachers. More information about student LGBT acceptance can be found here.