About a year ago, my adult child told their grandfather that they had chosen a new name and were using the pronouns “they/them.” This was the day before a family beach trip. My child told him that they would correct him if he got it wrong, not to be judgmental, but to help him practice because they knew it would be a difficult transition. At the beach I noticed my dad carrying around a piece of paper and saw that he had written the correct name (of his grandchild and their partner) on a piece of paper and written “they/them” underneath it so he could look at it before he spoke. He didn’t get it right every time, but his effort has made him a hero with my child and their friends. “Be like granddaddy” has become shorthand for expressing appreciation when people are trying really hard to be respectful.
Next week I am hosting a panel for PRIDE month on Pronouns in the Workplace. It seems like the perfect time to give parents (and anyone else who interacts with kids and teens) some information about pronouns and inclusive language! How can you “be like granddaddy”?
Why is this important if you don’t have an LGBTQ+ child? Because 10-seconds of effort on your part will convey your thoughtfulness and respect to all of the non-binary, gender nonconforming, and trans youth listening to you speak. In fact, using inclusive language can contribute to decreased depression and can even reduce suicidal ideation.
Your 10-seconds of effort might even help save a life.
Using these more inclusive questions and words when you talk to your child and their friends will be appreciated by anyone paying attention whether they are LGBTQ+ or not.
-Instead of calling a group of teens who all present as female or male “boys/guys” or “girls”, call them something gender inclusive like “peeps”, “graduates”, “friends”, or “y’all” if you are in the South!
-Swap “Do you have a romantic interest?” instead of “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”
–Share your pronouns in a matter-of-fact way but don’t expect or ask for them to share their pronouns. Ok, I know some of you are looking at me like I sprouted a second head. If this is way out of your comfort zone, you can still ensure you aren’t using incorrect pronouns by just not using pronouns at all. Yep, until I know or until I have had time to practice, I usually just say the person’s name instead of a pronoun at all. How do you share your pronouns in a matter-of-fact way?? “Hi, I’m Madison’s mom. You can call me Carol and my pronouns are she/her.” Make sure you do this when introducing yourself to everyone, not just folks you think might be LGBTQ+!
I don’t have all the answers. I might have even gotten something “wrong” in this blog post, but I am trying. Can you try to “be like granddaddy” too?
Here is a resource to help: