I started using they/them pronouns about a year ago, after months of hesitation that paralleled with the nonlinear process of embracing that I’m transgender.

In Hindi, they/them translates into a form of respect, and I felt that by using my pronouns, I was suggesting that the world should respect me. Regardless of whether they chose to use the correct pronouns, my conscience couldn’t make peace with taking up space.

Claiming my identity meant caring for myself, something that was far out of reach at the time.

Hindi exaggerated this hesitation because almost every sentence in the language seems to be gendered — try translating these in your head if you’re familiar with Hindi:

I love my dog more than I love you
I can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality
I’m made up of 60 percent coffee (not water)

They’re all gendered, and the spluttering that comes from attempting to speak in a gender-neutral way makes an awkward situation. Especially when my high-pitched nasal voice makes everyone think I’ve got an accent, even though the way I talk has been consistent throughout my life (my mom fact-checks this for me every time I wonder if I’m delusional about the sound of my voice).

But I was incredibly lucky and privileged to be surrounded with friends (pictured above) who understood what I needed last year, before I did.

They suggested casually throwing around they/them pronouns when referring to me in our conversations. The gender euphoria from this was hard to resist, and it encouraged me to let myself be who I was, rather than obsessing over what the implications of ‘being’ were.

I still shy away from talking in Hindi because I don’t want to sound authoritative in using my correct pronouns, and I also don’t want to misgender myself. But it’s interesting to think about how language shapes our understanding of each other, and of ourselves.

Originally published on Pixstory by Ragi Gupta.

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