The pronouns we use reflect our level of respect for the person we are speaking with or about. When someone tells me, “I’ll just call Miriam ‘she’ because that’s what I’m used to,” they are passing judgment on my child. They are saying, “My comfort is more important than your child’s comfort.” Whether or not they intend to be dismissive they are telling me, “Miriam’s identity is not valid because I don’t understand it.” Being mis-gendered — or mistaken for the wrong gender — stings. Hearing “she/her/hers” instead of “they/them/theirs” causes my child pain.
Does that sound harsh? Does it sound like I’m asking friends, family and strangers to engage in an issue that doesn’t involve them? I can assure you that whether or not you think you know someone who is non-binary, you do. The more people I talk to and the more I write about this, the more I realize that David and I are experiencing something that is both utterly unique and increasingly common. You know someone who is non-binary. They just might not have told you yet.