If you have ever had a teacher, or anyone, ask you to specify your pronouns, you might have been confused. “Why are they asking me that? Isn’t it obvious?” While sometimes, it could be evident that you are cisgender and female or male presenting, you always want to be sure.
For example, if you were to meet a transgender man (female to male), and they just began transitioning, they are still going to have some feminine features. If you just assume that he is a girl, it could hurt their feelings and be problematic. So, as I always say, “you never know.”
Not only should you not be surprised when people ask for your pronouns, but it should also be customary to say them when introducing yourself. It takes just a couple of seconds but makes a huge impact. Let’s say only transgender people have to specify their pronouns. This would make them more easily identified out of everyone in that group, which could be uncomfortable for them. So, it would be easier for both parties to just start with a “Hi, I’m Alex and my pronouns are she/her,” or “I’m Jack, and my pronouns are he/they.” Regardless if you’re trans or cis, it’s straightforward and doesn’t hurt anyone.
You may have been confused by the pronouns in one of my examples. Let’s go over some common pronouns.
There are binary pronouns. Binary means one or the other. In this case, it would be male or female. She/her is for feminine identifying people, and he/him is for masculine identifying people.
There are also non-binary pronouns. These are for people who don’t identify as just men or just women. The most common of these pronouns are they/them. People use these pronouns when they identify as neither male nor female, nor sometimes as both.
Then, there are mixed pronouns. If someone were to identify as female and could be comfortable as non-binary, they would use she/they pronouns. It would be the same for he/they pronouns.
All in all, gender is a spectrum, and pronouns are how we let other people know where we fall on that spectrum. Even if you don’t understand someone’s pronouns, it takes two seconds to respect them either way. We all want to be respected, and to do that; we must respect everyone else first.