Prospect Heights, IL — At the beginning of this school year, I put my pronouns in my Zoom name. As a cisgender person, adding them was an afterthought — I’m fortunate enough to never get misgendered. However, after speaking to my transgender and nonbinary peers, I realized that the help of cisgender people can be crucial in encouraging respect for pronouns in the online classroom.
It’s easy for trans students to be misgendered in the virtual classroom. In online environments, verbally revealing pronouns can feel awkward and clunky, and is oftentimes avoided altogether.
“Unless I make my pronouns explicitly clear, most people will fall in line with societal understandings of the gender binary and assume that I use either she/her or he/him pronouns,” said Is Perlman, a nonbinary student in Florida.
However, there’s an easy fix — adding pronouns at the end of Zoom names.
It allows others to receive constant reminders of others’ identities, almost like a virtual nametag. But, for some trans students, adding pronouns to Zoom names can be intimidating and isolating.
To help trans peers feel more comfortable presenting their gender identity, cis students need to ensure that their pronouns are visible.
Even if their gender identities and pronouns are widely known, when cis people add their pronouns to their Zoom names, it helps trans people feel less alone.
“It can be hard to feel comfortable or safe being out if I’m the only one who puts my pronouns after my name,” said Winter Appleton, a nonbinary student from Illinois.
The pronouns can also foster a more inclusive space for queer students in general.
Some of my teachers hopped on board this semester, and noticing this couldn’t have made me happier. As a queer student, I almost see the use of pronouns in Zoom names as an olive branch — it’s a way to tell us that our identities won’t be negated in the classroom.
“When someone has their pronouns, I definitely feel more comfortable,” Mugwort Johnson, a nonbinary student from Illinois, said. “By seeing that, I know that they are at least somewhat knowledgeable of the current social situation and willing to make things better.”
While the addition of pronouns in Zoom names can be welcoming for transgender people, Perlman noted that this isn’t accessible for everybody.
“Closeted trans people may be forced to lie about their identity and take on the (false) identity of a cisgender person, whereas other folks may be forced to take on a universal outness rather than selective outness to only a few people,” Perlman said.
Encouraging respect for our trans peers should be our priority, especially in online learning environments. What are you waiting for?