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Non-Binary identity and understanding the pronoun usage

Posted at 4:49 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 17:28:50-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It's becoming more commonplace to see pronouns in people’s email signatures and social media bios. Perhaps you’ve been wondering where the change comes from. It’s driven by a push to normalize discussions about gender.

When I began looking into this, it was simply driven by my own curiosity. I was surprised to learn off the bat that one in four LGBTQ youth now identify as non-binary, reinforcing that this is not just a here today, gone tomorrow trend.

You’ve seen it in the signatures of email and on social media, the practice of using pronouns on personal profiles is taking off- the uptick, as more celebrities share their gender journey with fans.

“I’ve had the revelation that I am non-binary,” singer Demi Lovato recently posted on social media.

Big employers encourage their workforce to incorporate their use that includes local giant, Henry Ford Health System which staffs over 30,000 people in Metro Detroit.

“If we can get the pronouns right, it’s tantamount to getting your name right,” said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Senior Vice President of Community Health and Equity at Henry Ford Health System.

“This is part of our journey in terms of ensuring that we continue to create an environment of belonging,” said Dr. Wisdom.

Many have embraced the practice of pronouns, but not everyone. For some, the topic is confusing, perhaps even intimidating.

“How do you define it?” WXYZ’s Ameera David asked Anthony Martinez from LGBT Detroit.

“Non-binary to me is someone who does not identify with the gender norm,” said Anthony Martinez from LGBT Detroit.

We were welcomed inside LGBT Detroit to get a more nuanced understanding. While being transgender means your identity does not correspond with the sex you were assigned at birth, being non-binary allows for an even more fluid definition.

“People being more comfortable with identifying as both,” said Martinez.

“My name is Dean Nasreddine and I use he/they pronouns,” said Nasreddine.

At just four years old, Dean Nasreddine began challenging gender rules.

“I didn’t think of myself as a little boy or little girl, I was just me,” said Nasreddine.

Dean initially embraced a more masculine appearance, undertaking some male hormone therapy but today tells me, they also feel comfortable growing long hair and wearing makeup.

I think it really does mean having that freedom, of acting the way I want to act as far as how gendered I want to present,” said Nasreddine. “Not feeling like I am not man enough, or woman enough.”

Many non-binary people choose to be referred to as the singular they, look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find it is grammatically correct, contrary to widespread belief.

“What would you say to the person out there that is confused by why this is necessary and inherently wants to push back against it?” asked David.

“You don’t have to understand somebody to respect them,” said Nasreddine.

Advocates - particularly those counseling non-binary at-risk youth say that respect can go a long way.

“To see that they recognize pronouns is huge for someone who has to think about navigating that world constantly,” said Celina Ortiz, Youth Specialist at Ruth Ellis Center.

As people work to get up to speed, the expectation is that there will be stumbles over language, but this growing community—focused more on intention, over perfection,” said Ortiz.

“It’s all about being open and listening. If someone tells you who they are believe them,” said Nasreddine.

If you’re interested in learning more about the transgender, non-binary community- one local organization, the Ruth Ellis center, does offer training to the general public.

For more information and support group connections, we've added these links:

Understanding Non-binary

Resource Center Glossary

Educational classes, Ruth Ellis Center

Support groups, LGBT Detroit