On Sept. 23, an article entitled “Students take over the Bell Tower with an open mic night” was published by the Temple News. A very well-written article, it talked about an open mic that I organized and performed at, along with a host of other musicians and spoken-word performers. However, I noticed that I was referred to throughout the article with she/her pronouns, even though I am an agender person who uses they/them pronouns. I would like to take this opportunity to educate our student body about why it is so important to be conscious of respecting the gender pronouns and identities of others.
For those who aren’t familiar with agender identities, to be agender, simply put, means to internally not feel female or male. The word “agender” is often used interchangeably with the words “genderqueer” and “non-binary.” Many of us identify as people under the transgender umbrella.
While a pronoun may seem like a minor detail, to respect a person’s gender pronoun means to repect that person’s gender identity. In the case of many agender/trans people, respecting our gender identities can mean acknowledging and showing appreciation for all the hardship that most of us go through before we feel safe and secure enough to come out about these identities. Speaking from personal experience, I didn’t come out as agender until I came to college and started a new life. Before this, I remained closeted for fear of being ostracized.
This means that I lived with the dysphoria and depression of living as the wrong gender for more than 18 years of my life. Everything in my life was tainted by this huge secret that I was carrying around.
This is not an uncommon narrative. According to a study conducted by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality, 41 percent of respondants reported attempting suicide, as compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.
This means that if you meet an out, proud trans person, they have most likely overcome a series of huge hurdles to get to the point they are at today. Self-acceptance is something that all people struggle with in some way or another. For people who are often bullied and discriminated against just for their gender identities, this can make the journey to self-acceptance that much more difficult.
In my case, I went from thinking I didn’t have a place in the world to learning to love and embrace myself, gender identity included. As I grew to respect myself, I realized that I didn’t deserve the suffering that came with being closeted. I learned to love myself enough to trust that I was born this way for a reason. I realized that just like everyone else, I deserve happiness and fulfillment.
This concept of respect is a big reason why it is important to respect the pronouns of trans people. By respecting those pronouns, you’re showing us that you respect us and see our identities as valid.
When I was still closeted, I couldn’t find any outspoken agender people in the public eye. If I had people like that to look to, my journey to self-acceptance and coming out would have been a lot easier.
This is why I’ve asked you to publish this letter. I want to use the platform I’ve been given as a musician to demand respect for trans people who aren’t yet out. My journey to self-acceptance took a lot of time, patience and hard work, but I want everyone to know that it is very possible.
I want more and more agender people to feel safe enough to come out, and when they do, I want their identities to be welcomed into society with open arms.
Kayla Raniero is a freshman design major. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.