A lot goes into a person’s sense of identity: their family upbringing, their cultural background, their name, and even their pronouns. This may not be something you think about regularly until someone else invalidates part of your identity. It can be as seemingly harmless as someone mispronouncing your name, calling you by the wrong name, or referring to you by the incorrect pronoun.
But these are experiences many transgender and nonbinary people know all too well, and they can be crushing for a person’s mental health.
What Are Pronouns?
Pronouns are used to refer to someone in place of their name or when talking about someone in the third person.
You’re most likely familiar with the pronouns she/her/hers and he/him/his. These pronouns typically imply someone’s gender, but connecting pronouns with gender isn’t always accurate or respectful to someone’s personal identity.
This is because it is often not possible to make assumptions about someone’s pronouns based on their appearance. Someone who uses he/him pronouns, for example, may not feel or present as masculine, but those are still their correct pronouns.
Other people aren’t exclusively male or female, so their pronouns might be gender-neutral like they/them/theirs or fluid like she/they or he/they.
Why Pronouns Matter
Using someone’s correct pronouns isn’t just respectful. It can also have a direct impact on their mental health.
Researchers conducted a study to see how affirming the gender identities of transgender and nonbinary youths ages 16-24 would affect their mental health. Among the factors they evaluated was the use of the participants’ correct pronouns. They found that transgender and nonbinary youths whose identities were respected and affirmed had fewer depression and anxiety symptoms.
Another study involving adult transgender women found that when people didn’t use the participants’ correct pronouns, the participants were much more likely to suffer from adverse health outcomes or struggle with symptoms of depression.
While not every transgender or nonbinary person is negatively affected when someone uses the incorrect pronouns, many can be.
The best way to ensure that you use a person’s correct pronouns is to simply ask them: What are your pronouns?
You can also start by introducing yourself with your pronouns: Hi, my name is Amy, and my pronouns are she/her. This can create an environment where others may feel safer to share their pronouns too.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun after someone tells you theirs, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just apologize and move on.
Accessing Inclusive Treatment
At Carolina House, we know just how important it is for transgender and nonbinary people to receive gender-affirming care. We provide eating disorder treatment in an environment that is inclusive of people of all genders and sexual orientations.
When a transgender or nonbinary person chooses Carolina House, they can expect to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. During their time with us, many transgender and nonbinary people also discover a new support network through the people they meet in various treatment groups, which is a resource they often carry with them years later.
If you would like more information about the eating disorder treatment services we offer for LGBTQ+ individuals, reach out to us today.