I remember watching the news the day Bill C-16 was passed. Bill C-16 seeks, in part, to add the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to broaden the recognition of the rights of other members of sexual minority groups. I remember that the news reporter focused heavily on pronoun use, that an individual can choose the pronouns they identify with. So… you can choose your pronouns?
It felt as if I was starting a movie halfway into it. You know what that’s like. Catching up can take a bit; sometimes, it only comes together for you at the end of the movie. As I listened to the news, I felt confused. It was different, and I didn’t get it.
Can you relate to this following sentiment? When something is new and confusing, we proceed with caution, possibly even resistance, until we figure it out. That was me when it came to pronouns. I didn’t fight it but didn’t embrace it. I just stayed frozen.
Then I noticed some judgments. I saw pronouns in email signatures and on social media profiles. I thought they looked ridiculous and hoped I wouldn’t be forced to label myself. I didn’t see why I needed to and wasn’t a fan of how it looked. I wanted to simply be Michelle Martin, not Michelle Martin (she/her). Being forced to do something is a sensitive thought for me as I strongly value freedom, the freedom to choose and the freedom to live on my terms.
As time passed, I couldn’t deny that something kept bringing me back to my unresolved thought about pronouns like there was a magnetic pull to choose for some reason – Michelle, do you support it or not?
To stop the dripping tap in the back of my mind, I found myself on a soul-searching journey, “why don’t you like the idea of self-labelling with pronouns?” “I don’t know, why do I need to use them? I’m not hurting anyone. Plus, I think it looks weird” “Well, you’re a bit weird, too,” and that was the thought that stopped me.
I have always felt I was different. As a result, I take my own path regardless of what others think. And this year, I’ve wanted to get even closer to my uniqueness. Thus, I have been more intentional about living in self-alignment and choosing to live in circumstances that support me to exercise my gifts and the genuine version of myself instead of playing a role.
My soul answered back – isn’t this what everyone wants? For those changing their pronouns, in their circumstance, they want to self-align, to stop playing a predefined role too. So, aren’t they simply taking the path that feels right to them?
That thought melted away the confusion in my heart and soul. But my brain couldn’t make logical sense of what this meant to me. When you add pronouns to your email signature or a social media profile, it’s a statement. It’s a sign. What did that mean to me? I didn’t know.
Then recently, during a team meeting, we had a discussion about pronouns. A colleague/friend in this discussion was reminiscing about how another colleague did a fantastic job as a guest speaker for a Women’s Impact group. My friend described how our mutual Colleague spoke about her child’s use of pronouns. In her presentation, she spoke about supporting and loving someone through pronoun changes and the challenges for the child and family. As I sat listening intently, a powerful moment hit me. As my friend continued, she said that using pronouns is a statement, a sign that says – You are safe with me. I support you.
Bam! Another value of mine is to stand up for the safety of others. It was like an electrifying message that zipped through my body, from soul to heart to brain. And finally, it all made sense.
Ironically, I will end this story the way I started it. Freedom is a substantial value of mine. I choose to use pronouns because I value freedom, the freedom for others to choose, and the freedom for others to live on their terms in safety.
Michelle Martin (she/her)