Before I delve any further into this subject, I want to offer up my own personal disclaimer: I am a straight, white, cis-gendered woman. Why do I feel the need to state that? Because it illustrates a key point: If I—as a heteronormative woman—can respect a person’s preferred pronouns, why can’t you?
Throughout the past several years, I’ve heard several arguments for not using a person’s preferred pronouns. They range from “It’s grammatically incorrect!” to “There’s no such thing as agender” to “It’s too hard to remember.” But no matter the excuse, the bottom line is that it’s disrespectful not to use a person’s preferred pronouns.
By not using a person’s preferred pronoun, what you’re really saying is that their identity doesn’t matter to you. Rude, rude, rude.
Furthermore, what you’re really saying is that genderqueer people aren’t worthy of being properly addressed. Why do I say that? Because we alter our language to suit people’s identities all the time, it’s just that no one ever complains about it when it’s a cisgendered person who requests to be addressed a certain way. Allow me to further explain.
If you approached a man by the name of Timothy and said, “Hi, Timothy. How are you today?” and Timothy responded, “Please, call me Tim.” Would you continue to call him Timothy? Would you start an argument with him about how since he was born Timothy he should go by the name Timothy?
No, of course not. You would respect his request to be addressed as Tim. It’s not hard folks; it just boils down to good old-fashioned manners.
And for all of you grammar Nazis out there, you should know that the Oxford Dictionary has officially recognized the singular form of “they.” Even Merriam-Webster points out that the singular form of “they” has been in consistent use since the 1300s.
In other words, there is no excuse for not using someone’s preferred pronouns. If you want to further educate yourself on the manner, I highly recommend this post written by genderqueer activist Adrian Ballou.