Using incorrect names and pronouns to refer to people can be unintentional or deliberate.

Unintentional misgendering happens because of ingrained ideas about how people of different genders should present. Deliberate misgendering is an act of violence, and puts Transgender and Gender-Variant people at risk of further physical violence and discrimination. Many media outlets continue to misgender Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians even when reporting on their victimization.

A lot of us aren’t used to having to ask for people’s pronouns. We’re used to assuming, based on people’s bodies and appearances, who they are and what gender they are.

But people’s genders don’t always correspond to how they look or sound or dress. Just because you think someone looks cisgender doesn’t mean that they are, and transgender people can be at many different stages of their journey.

All you need to do is ask: What are your pronouns? Some people may use conventional pronouns like “he” or “she.” Other people may identify as non-binary or agender, using pronouns like “they” (singular), “one,” “ze,” “sie” or “hir.” Some may only use their names, not identifying with any pronouns. Pronouns may change over time.

This can be a lot to keep straight and it means changing the way you think, but it’s essential for showing respect. Transgender and Gender-Variant people have their identities, their bodies and their experiences judged and denied and erased every day. This is a step towards stopping that. This is how we show members of our community that they aren’t alone.