How to Introduce Your Pronouns at the Holiday Dinner Table
The holidays can be stressful, especially if you're in the process of transitioning. Even if you make it through the questions, well-meaning or otherwise, there is still the constant threat of being dead-named and misgendered. As with many people, I began my transition away from home in an environment where I felt comfortable experimenting with clothes, makeup, pronouns, and names. Although I've appreciated the freedom to find myself, this now makes the return home for the holidays all the more daunting as I encounter both close, supportive relatives and relatively unknown acquaintances. I hope that with this guide to introducing and reinforcing correct pronoun usage, the holidays will be as bright and only semi-awkward as usual.
Seek out your allies at the gathering — this could be the person hosting or just someone you trust — and let them know that this is something that's important to you. You can even send around information on gender neutral pronouns for background information. If you're like me, it may feel uncomfortable to ask for help, but remember that they want you at this gathering. It's part of their role to make their guests welcome, and this includes you and your pronouns!
Wear a Pin or Button With Your Pronouns
I like this method because it draws the attention away from my body and directs it instead to an outside object. This opens the door for me to either explain further or nod politely as I hand around the mashed potatoes. This method gives the added benefit of adding festive decoration to any outfit, but as always, personal preference is best.
Introduce Your Pronouns as You Meet New People
This gives you the chance to cut off any misgendering from the start and to set clear guidelines. For example, last year while attending a holiday dinner at a friend's house, I would introduce myself in the following way: "Hi, my name is Laur. My pronouns are they/them." Occasionally people needed further assistance, so if they didn't introduce their pronouns in return, I would follow up by asking for them. This gave the twofold benefit of repetition, and, of course, learning their pronouns as well.
Introduce Your Pronouns to the Group
If your family is like my family, then there will come a time where everyone goes around the table and shares. If this isn't your family, this could be the opportunity to introduce a new tradition! We often share reflections on the year, hopes for the upcoming year, and things for which we are grateful. This is another easy place to slip in your new pronouns, especially since you'll have everyone's attention.
I've tried a number of different tactics in this regard — everything from a drinking game (take a drink if you misgender me) to speaking only in the third person for five minutes (just so everyone gets the message). If things aren't going well, don't be afraid to excuse yourself and contact your support system. Remember that this is meant to be a happy and communal time, and if others are unable to provide that space, you do not have the obligation to stay.
In an ideal world, the holidays are about love, family, and friends . . . and eating a ridiculous amount of cranberry sauce. Remember that part of this love is self-love, and part of self-love is setting clear boundaries and expectations with people you trust and want to spend time with. Transitioning can be difficult, but with the help of your support system, and a few nifty strategies, it can bring you and your loved ones closer together.