Ronak Pahlevanlu, A Riverside math teacher, has recently asked students and staff to start using they/them pronouns and has dropped the title of Ms./Mrs.
In an interview with Pahlevanlu, they said that their “relationship with gender has always been in flux. It’s been at the forefront of my mind since coming out as queer 4 years ago.” They also mentioned that, with all the gatekeeping in the LGBT community, they were never able to feel “’gender queer’ enough, or ‘non-binary’ enough [to start transitioning]. If I was going to wait to be ‘x’ enough, then I would never be truly comfortable,” said Pahlevanu.
They started by asking their closest friends to start with calling them by they/them pronouns and before long they were able to open-up to the staff and students at Riverside about their identity. Many English speakers argue that the use of gender neutral they/them pronouns are not acceptable in proper grammar, claiming that they are reserved for plural pronouns.
But there are many examples of singular they/them pronouns in literature, even dating back to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1599. The use of the singular “they” as a pronoun was added in Mariam Webster in September 2019: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” For those who identify as nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or genderqueer, gaining, the attention of internet users internationally, it has now become more popular to list one’s pronouns in their social media bio or at the end of an email with their name to make it easier to identify them properly.
It is very important to acknowledge someone’s pronouns because pronouns can be a big part of someone’s identity. Being able to recognize someone’s identity and “accepting people for who they are is critical to their well being and overall mental health,” Pahlevanu says. There are different ways you can support non-binary and trans youth, such as asking them how they can best be supported; one shouldn’t “question them about why or tell them it’s too hard of a change to make. This is especially important for people who aren’t out to everyone.” said Pahlevanu. Correcting someone who the person has not come out to yet, can put someone in an uncomfortable and even a dangerous situation. If you ever use the wrong pronouns, simply correct yourself and move on.