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Understanding Misgendering: What It Is and Why It Matters

Misgendering is the act of referring to someone using the wrong gender pronouns or gender identity. Whether intentional or unintentional, it can profoundly impact a person's mental health and well-being, causing feelings of invalidation, anxiety, and depression. In this post, we'll explore what misgendering is, why it matters, and what you can do to help prevent it. Additionally, we'll address how to apologize to someone after misgendering them and what to do if you are unsure of someone's pronouns.

What is Misgendering?

Misgendering occurs when someone is addressed or referred to using pronouns or gender identities that do not align with their self-identified gender. It can happen deliberately or unintentionally, but the consequences for the person being misgendered remain significant. For example, if someone identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, consistently referring to them as he/him or she/her can cause feelings of invalidation and distress. It is crucial to use the correct pronouns and gender identity when referring to someone to show respect and support for their authentic self.

The Impact of Misgendering on Mental Health

Misgendering can significantly impact a person's mental health and overall well-being. It can lead to feelings of invalidation, anxiety, depression, and dysphoria. For transgender individuals, misgendering can also trigger memories of past trauma and discrimination, exacerbating the emotional toll. It is important to be mindful of our language and make a deliberate effort to consistently employ the correct pronouns and gender identity when referring to someone. By doing so, we contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all individuals.

The Importance of Respecting Pronouns

Misgendering, or using the wrong pronouns to refer to someone, can significantly impact a person's mental health and well-being. It can cause feelings of invalidation, rejection, and dysphoria for individuals who identify as transgender or non-binary. Using someone's correct pronouns is a basic form of respect and can help create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals. Educating ourselves and others on the importance of respecting pronouns and actively working towards creating a more accepting society is essential.

How to Avoid Misgendering

The best way to avoid misgendering someone is to ask them what their preferred pronouns are and to use them consistently. Respect their self-identification and refrain from making assumptions based on appearance or name. If you are unsure about someone's pronouns, it is acceptable to politely ask or use gender-neutral language until you can confirm their preferred pronouns. Remember, using the correct pronouns and gender identity is a simple yet powerful way to demonstrate respect and support for all individuals.

Navigating Uncertainty Regarding Someone's Pronouns

In situations where you are unsure of someone's pronouns, it is essential to approach the matter with respect and sensitivity. Here are some steps to consider:

Use gender-neutral language: When uncertain about someone's pronouns, opt for gender-neutral language such as they/them until you have more information. Avoid making assumptions based on appearance or assumptions.

Ask politely if appropriate: If the situation allows and you feel comfortable, respectfully ask the person for their pronouns. Frame the question in a way that does not impose or assume their gender identity, allowing them the space to share if they wish.

Educate yourself: Take the initiative to educate yourself about different gender identities and pronouns. This self-education will help you understand the importance of correct pronouns and contribute to a more inclusive and respectful environment.

Respect their preferences: Once you become aware of someone's pronouns, consciously use them correctly. Respect their chosen gender identity and pronouns and encourage others to do the same.

By actively striving to avoid misgendering, correcting mistakes, sincerely apologizing when errors occur, and respecting others' pronouns, we can contribute to a more inclusive and accepting society. This, in turn, fosters a sense of belonging, mental health, and overall well-being for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity.

How to Apologize to Someone After Misgendering Them

If you realize that you have misgendered someone, it is crucial to apologize sincerely and take steps to rectify the mistake. Here's a guide on how to apologize after misgendering someone:

Reflect on the situation: Acknowledge and take responsibility for your misgendering, recognizing the impact it may have had on the person's well-being.

Approach them respectfully: Find an appropriate setting to speak with the person privately. Respect their boundaries and ensure they feel safe and supported during the conversation.

Apologize sincerely: Express your genuine remorse for the mistake and the harm caused. Use their correct pronouns and gender identity when apologizing, emphasizing that you understand the importance of using the proper terminology.

Learn from the experience: Show your commitment to personal growth and understanding by educating yourself about gender identities and pronouns. Seek resources and engage in conversations to deepen your knowledge.

Don’t beat yourself up: Recognize that learning and growth are ongoing processes, and what matters most is the sincere effort both parties put into understanding and respecting others' gender identities.

At Nōmina Integrated Health, we are proud to offer programming with a certified International Transgender Care Association (ITCA) certified specialist. Nomina is a safe space for LGBTQA2S+ and TransAllied individuals. We honour all pronouns!


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