Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in Recovery and wellbeing on 17th October, 2023
Each year, every third Wednesday of October is International Pronouns Day – a day that seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. To mark the occasion, Lau Harp (they/them), a Creative Psychotherapist in the Devon Wellbeing Hub, writes about why personal pronouns matter and explains how colleagues can be inclusive and supportive.
Lau says: “This topic is of particular interest to me because I personally identify as non-binary which is an umbrella term that can mean different things for different people. Personally, it means that I don’t feel comfortable living as female or male, but rather somewhere in the middle of the two. Because we live in such a binary world it can be really difficult to find a sense of belonging when you feel inherently uncomfortable at what can on the surface seem very ‘normal’ or ‘just how it is’. For me, particularly because the world around us is so gendered, pronouns are a huge part of what makes daily life an experience of acceptance or struggle.”
Why do personal pronouns matter and what impact do they have on someone’s identity and wellbeing?
“Personal pronouns can be a huge part of what makes daily life an experience of euphoria or discomfort. In particular, for people who do not feel that their gender aligns with that which they were assigned at birth, hearing themselves referred to by their preferred pronoun can be a really affirming experience; the undertones of which communicate that you are not only seen and heard, but you are valued for who you are and how you present yourself to the world around you. The positive impact this can have on someone’s sense of self, identity and overall wellbeing, is huge.
“However, because the very nature of asking someone what their preferred pronouns are can be a rather rare experience in daily life, if we don’t all do the work to normalise this it can have the opposite effect whereby people can feel singled out, often having to navigate how they inform or correct people in circumstances where people’s pronouns are often assumed. It is not uncommon for someone wanting to communicate their correct pronouns to struggle with how to do that. It might be that it feels simply too awkward and uncomfortable and so the experience of choosing to ‘grin and bear it’ and say nothing is sadly very common. In this regard, personal pronouns affect us all.”
How can colleagues respect personal pronouns, be inclusive and support each other?
“Including pronouns in e-mail signatures and on your MS Teams name may on the surface not seem to be important, particularly if it’s something that may feel somewhat irrelevant to your own experience. However, this is one of the things we can do immediately, easily and will have far reaching positive impacts in relation to inclusivity and equality. If we normalised letting people know what our pronouns are, in the same way we do our names and job titles, it would help us to move to a place whereby people don’t feel the need to have to navigate how to go about informing people.
“We often assume people’s preferred pronouns, based on our conditioning around people’s names or their physical appearance. By including your pronouns on your e-mail signature you break down that stigma and encourage people to be welcomed as an individual and tell you who they are before it is assumed. If someone does struggle to navigate how to communicate their pronouns, seeing someone else communicate that – whether that be on a signature or minutes from a meeting – it gives them unconscious permission to do the same and that person then represents a degree of safety.”
What support do you offer in the Devon Wellbeing Hub?
“My role within the Hub primarily involves working with teams; whether that’s responding to specific requests following challenges or incidents or whether it’s more about helping a team to think about their wellbeing on an individual and collective level. I’ve experienced first-hand what it can feel like to work in teams whereby pressures and expectations are high but resources and time are limited. To be a part of carving out that time for individuals and teams to think about their life and work on a very human level feels like a real honour. It’s so important that we all feel heard, valued and embraced for who we are. That is ultimately what lies at the heart of my work.”
Get in touch:
Getting support from the Devon Wellbeing Hub is simple. If you work in healthcare, social care or the police and are struggling with any aspect of your wellbeing, or you lead a team that would benefit from support, the Hub can help you today. Please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0300 303 5455. You can also fill out the referral form on the Devon Wellbeing Hub website.