Valley News Forum for May 21, 2023: Why I express my pronouns

Published: 5/21/2023 6:21:21 AM
Modified: 5/21/2023 6:21:03 AM
Why I express my pronouns

I am writing in response to Randall Balmer’s May 7 column “Don’t look for pronouns on my email signature” (Page C1).

As a physician who has had the responsibility and honor, over the past 40 years, of caring for many hundreds of transgender/gender diverse (TGD) individuals, I have come to understand that gender identity is not a binary concept and can only be defined by each individual.

Professor Balmer is missing the point that expressing one’s affirmed gender identity by using pronouns is to avoid being misgendered by society. This is especially true for TGD individuals, but applies to everyone.

I choose to state my pronouns not as an “obsession” or to strut my “enlightened status,” but rather to signal to others that I recognize the current complexities surrounding gender identity. By stating my pronouns, I am suggesting that I do not look at gender identity as binary, and that I invite individuals to share their pronouns (including “they” or others) so that I do not misgender them.

Finally, and most importantly, I have learned from my TGD patients that they live each day in a transphobic society where their existence has been weaponized for political reasons placing them at risk for psychological and physical trauma. TGD individuals are by necessity adept at reading their environment to determine if they are in a safe space or in danger. By leading with my pronouns, when I interact with someone new, I am intentionally signaling that his, her or their interactions with me will be safe.

To quote a colleague of mine about Professor Balmer’s grammatical concern, “If it is a choice between grammar on the one hand and enabling marginalized human beings to feel marginally more comfortable in society on the other, grammar is certainly the lesser choice.” I agree and choose people over grammar.

Professor Balmer certainly can choose not to indicate his pronouns. I would hope, however, that when others decide to state their pronouns in person or email that he will better appreciate the very important reasons why.

Jack Turco, M.D. (he/him/his)


professor of medicine
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
co-director Dartmouth-Health Transgender/
Gender Diverse Program

Sharing pronouns is sharing identity

I hope Randall Balmer is uninformed about gender identity, and was not being antagonistic or disingenuous when he wrote “No pronouns in my email signature” (Page C1, May 7). In that hope, I’d appreciate Balmer’s considering two basic psychological truths about gender identity. I ask him to reconsider his unkind rejection of the practice of sharing pronouns.

Truth No. 1: Every person has a gender identity, a deeply felt understanding of self as man, woman, or nonbinary (not just man all the time or woman all the time). Truth No. 2: every person has a profound, enduring need to be perceived and recognized as who they are, with that gender identity.

Gender-expansive people are no more confused about their gender identities than cisgender people are. They just have to be braver and work harder to be acknowledged as who they are. Balmer’s concern for what he calls “people struggling with their own gender identities” unfortunately gaslights people who just want to be believed that they know who they are in the same way Balmer is believed when he says he is a man. It is society, not trans people, who are “on the road to clarity” around gender.

The reason Balmer may not fully understand these truths is because as a person with a male-appearing body and a male gender identity, all his life he has had the privilege of having his need to be recognized in his correct gender met, no questions asked. When we list our pronouns in our signature lines or state them after our names, we are saying, “I care about everyone’s need to be seen as who they are, so I’m helping to normalize this practice by letting people know who I am.”

Being chronically misgendered would cause excruciating alienation and suffering for any of us. Gender is a critical element of identity, and it matters to all of us, including Balmer. I wish folks in power like Balmer would use it to help those with less inborn privilege. Balmer could use his next op-ed to reduce suffering, rather than contribute to it.

Wendy Teller-Elsberg (she/her)


The Fed keeps the pattern going

The Fed (Federal Reserve) is an unconstitutional banking cartel. It was the first act of privatization with the federal government 110 years ago. It was supposed to create a more stable monetary and financial system, which, of course (and as usual) is the opposite of reality.

Those of a certain age have watched them repeatedly set ‘interest rate policy’ too low for too long, creating feverish financial market speculation. Then comes the raising of rates and the inevitable and expectable implosion. It’s a deliberate pattern. Everyone enjoys the way up; not many, the way back down. And here it comes again.

Neil Meliment


Red scare returns

Reading about the removal of the “Rebel Girl” historic marker in Concord, I can only think that Joseph McCarthy would be deeply satisfied.

Rich Blair


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