The value of respecting pronouns

Reporters discuss the importance and evolution of societal norms

“A word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse” – the definition of a pronoun. 

A pronoun has become something of someone’s identity, they use a pronoun to show who they are. Have you ever heard someone say that you need to respect others’ pronouns? Have you ever wondered why that may be very important? Many teachers at ALHS have started asking students for their pronouns and preferred name. This is something that needs to become normalized in society and especially at school to create a safe learning environment. 

Many people believe that everyone should be asked what their pronouns are. By starting to do this, it will help normalize it in society. Everyone uses pronouns. Getting asked what your pronouns are should not be an offensive question. Knowing which pronouns people prefer will help create this welcome place where you are accepted. When pronouns start to be asked by teachers, to every student, this is going to create a safe environment for every gender-conforming and non-conforming student. 

Cannon Wake, an Echoes graphic designer with a Tony Stark complex, has an insight into the feeling of pronouns being the taboo topic that it shouldn’t be.

“40 percent of new people ask me, and they are always really embarrassed to ask me,” Wake said. “That should be erased because that shows you want to make the person comfortable and you shouldn’t be embarrassed.”

Getting asked by fellow students or teachers is limited because of embarrassment. If teachers create an environment that makes their students think that being respectful is embarrassing it will not help the students have the comfort they deserve. This idea that asking for one’s pronouns is embarrassing singles out the ones who think they need to tell people what their pronouns are. Everyone should be asked, no matter how you look or what you would think. 

“Once you start asking everyone their pronouns, everyone will start to be comfortable,” Wake said. “The burden of explaining yourself is very alienating.” 

Justin Heckman, a science teacher at ALHS, has seen the evolution of the use of pronouns becoming someone’s identity. He has been able to watch the process of respecting one’s pronouns become very important for students. 

“I have had kids who have felt unsafe in school and that’s not okay,” Heckman said. “Well first off, you know school is hard anyway and so you’d hate to go into a classroom where you don’t know that your teacher is going to judge you based upon whatever, whoever you are. And so I want to make sure that students understand where they are, it is a safe space.”

Not knowing when you go into a classroom if you are going to be frowned upon creates an unwelcoming environment for non-gender conforming or gender-conforming students. The students and staff of Abraham Lincoln should work on becoming a welcoming safe place. 

“So even if I tried to make a place that makes them feel like they are valued, they can be valued by me but not valued by other people,” Heckman said. “I’m just trying to tell you the importance, I guess, for kids to understand that there are people that aren’t like them but they are still all okay people. We are all just people.”

Heckman thinks having this mentality for all teachers would be good for the health of the students. Making the students feel valued like any other student is valued is important for them to know so that they feel safe and comfortable in an environment where they have to be every day. 

Maliah Young, a junior at ALHS, has strong values for this topic. “People don’t always look how they want. They may feel like they do on the inside. But when the teachers ask, it can make them feel more comfortable and accepted.”

Allowing gender-conforming and non-gendering conforming ALHS students to feel welcome is something many believe is important.