By a show of hands, who has played the pronoun game? I'd venture to guess that if you are reading this as a member of the LGBT community you just raised your hand (or at least did in your mind if you are a weenie). If you aren't a member of the LGBT community you have probably been on the receiving end of the pronoun game whether you realized it or not. We all do it-we adjust pronouns to "they", "them", "they'll" and other various ways of not saying "he" or "she" as to leave out the gender of the person we are with or instead of using their name. Side note-how many of us only do this when our partners don't have "gender-neutral" names? I just realized that if they have a "gender-neutral" name like Chris, Jamie, Sam, etc. I use their name...just not the full version. Let me know in the comment section about what you do...I'm curious.
Anyway, why do we do this? Fear. Fear of being rejected, judged, chastised, condemned or fired. We play the game with our families, acquaintances, co-workers and even sometimes friends. We decide that people aren't ready for the truth, aren't capable of understanding, aren't willing to be accepting of us for who we are if we are honest with them. We do it to "protect" ourselves, "protect" the people we love, and "protect" those we are talking to. If we are honest with ourselves, how many times do we really need to do this for protection, and how many times is it out of being a coward? When we make a big deal out of the pronoun game, we are teaching society that there is something wrong with us. Please don't misinterpret what I write-there are times and places to play the pronoun game-when your job, security, and safety are at stake...but I'd venture to say that many of us play the game when it's not necessary, just more comfortable.
I admit that I play the pronoun game at work and am not ashamed of it. I hear the homophobic comments from co-workers, the jokes, etc. and just don't want any part of it. Sometimes I say something about it being inappropriate, but I'm not putting myself on the chopping block by telling them that I'm a big gay. I work with some homophobic people and can be fired, even though I kick-ass at my job, if they push for it. I also work with some awesome people who are "down with the gays," have more than 2 brain cells and figured it out from conversations and my facebook page. Other than work, I refuse to play the game. It takes too much work and is not worth it. If someone doesn't like that I date women, then I don't really care-their approval is not required for my happiness.
I challenge you to be uncomfortable, be honest, and be yourself-the uncomfortable will change to comfortable as you stop over thinking all the time. Use gender-specific pronouns, give people credit, and change your perspective as to how they will react. Sometimes they surprise you...but sometimes they don't.