Written by Simply Duma

I’ve come to realise that expression is a personal action, one that is pure in the sense that it is completely you. There are many things that can assist you with discovering and nurturing your identity, and an often overlooked factor is your gender identity.

As talented as I am, I wasn’t born with all the knowledge that I have now. I pride myself in finding out things that I’m curious about, and understanding them to the best of my abilities. I’m most thankful for this mindset when relating to pronouns. I was one of the panelists at a queer talk show. All of us were speakers, adding our voices to the topic being discussed. At the beginning of their session, one of my fellow panellists had mentioned their pronouns. Admittedly, I didn’t understand what they meant, so I approached them and asked what they meant. The answer they gave me led me on a mission to inform myself about this new (to me) subject.

This research has led me to deeper understand the intricate details of identity. I’ve always known that certain things were societal constructs, in this case, gender, but understanding the significance of pronouns and how you address one who may not use what many deem as “unacceptable” pronouns goes much deeper than just your limiting views and understandings. To be seen is a feeling that cannot be matched. That is why, whenever I meet somebody new, regardless of how they present themselves to me, I always enquire about their pronouns. I see you, in all of your glory. If by chance they don’t understand what I’m asking, I educate them.

I’ve always included inclusion into my activism, and although I had researched and understood what they meant, I had a lot more to learn. Thanks to the first season of POSE, I was able understand that being non-binary isn’t just a phenomena, it was an identity, way deeper than what we choose to see. This is why I had started advocating for the cause.

My words of advice to those that are exploring their identity, specifically those exploring their non-binary identity, would be to stay true to your identity and how you choose to express it. As much as we are social beings who tend to develop a lot of understandings and beliefs, such as gender expression and gender identity, in response to their environment or community, we must still stay true to ourselves and not let others outside of ourselves influence how we see ourselves.

Conversely, I would like to also advise those who have somebody who identifies as non-binary in their lives. If you don’t know their pronouns, use neutral pronounces like “they/them” to address them. Take time to learn and understand your loved one’s identity and what their pronouns mean to them. This will help tremendously with how you interact with them in a respectful manner.

If we lived in a perfect world, I would have everybody share their chosen pronouns as the norm. Not just in LGBTQIA+ spaces, but everywhere humans engage and interact. As best put by Tupac, one of my favourite icons, I don’t think I could change the world, but I can spark a mind that will. I believe one of those minds is my own. This would make a tremendous change that I believe isn’t impossible.

Kind Regards, Duma Mabizela

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