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Michigan LGBTQ+ Leaders Weigh in on Instagram Pronoun Addition

By |2021-05-14T09:34:17-04:00May 14th, 2021|Michigan, News|

While Instagram users have long been manually adding preferred pronouns to their bios on their own, the app has announced that it will now let all users add their preferred pronouns to their bios and profiles. Users can select the option to allow all Instagram users to see the pronouns or to show them only to followers.

“Instagram has always been a place where users can express and be themselves — and with this latest feature, Instagram is excited to normalize pronoun usage while promoting a more thoughtful community,” the company said in a statement. “We consulted with experts to make the list as inclusive as possible.”

Local experts lauded the social media giant’s decision.

“For many trans people, claiming gender pronouns that more fully affirm our identities is one of the first practical steps we take towards gender transition,” said Lance Hicks, a psychotherapist who works at Radical Well-Being Center. “For young people, in particular, being able to assert new pronouns — whether they be ‘she’ or ‘he’ or something a little less familiar to cis folks, like ‘Ze’ or ‘Squir,’ is an act of self-definition. This is especially important, because we know from research, and I observe daily with my own clients, that trans folks able to find ways to embrace our true identities is life-saving.”

Embracing new pronouns is often among the first steps one makes when transitioning, Hicks said.

“I have clients who use names or pronouns with me, on the other hand, that they aren’t ready to divulge outside of therapy,” he said. “I’ve worked with young people whose first act of self-definition was to share their affirmed pronouns in safe, online communities, where they were able to quickly find support and encouragement. This option has been transformative for the clients I have who’ve chosen it.”

Morgan Shaw-Andrade, transgender and wellness counselor for Transcend the Binary, said that preferred pronouns are for everyone and not just trans folks.

“Regardless of identity, pronouns are an integral part of who we are,” he said. “In effect, using the wrong pronouns for an individual is calling them someone they aren’t. Using the correct pronouns for anyone is affirming, whereas using the wrong pronouns can have detrimental effects on an individual’s wellbeing. Individuals in positions of leadership, i.e. teachers, college professors, bosses, etc., have an opportunity to set a precedent for those that work with them to ask for and use correct pronouns. Ultimately, positive change in any setting is a collective effort. Placing your pronouns in social media bios is not a trans exclusive act, rather it needs to be done by cisgender individuals as well to help implement positive change.”

Instagram is test piloting the program here in the U.S. as well as in the U.K., Canada and Australia. So far, Instagram is offering 15 different sets of pronouns to choose from.

“We’ll continue to update the list of terms over time, so that more people around the world can share their pronouns more easily,” Instagram’s PR team said in statement it tweeted on Tuesday.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.