Respecting pronouns is vital when working with children, creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals regardless of gender identity. Understanding and using correct pronouns show that a child’s identity is valued and respected, and can support those who are exploring their gender identity. By participating in and using training on pronoun use, you are promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity that children can carry with them throughout their lives.
Gender identity development starts early and knowing preferred pronouns becomes increasingly important as children grow and explore their gender identity. By age 5 or 6, many children have a strong sense of their gender identity and may become more aware of gendered expectations and stereotypes. Creating a safe and inclusive environment that supports children’s gender identity and expression, including respecting their preferred pronouns, is crucial during puberty and adolescence.
We were recently at a school in Victoria leading our BusReady presentation when a child, about 8 years old, raised their hand and asked me what my pronouns were. I confidently replied, “She/Her,” and the child seemed pleased with my answer.
As our time together continued, they also asked the Transit Operator what his pronouns were. My advice is to be prepared and think ahead of time about what your pronouns are, so you have an appropriate response should a child ask you.
When a child sees that Transit Operators know this information, it can help build their confidence and keep them feeling safe and secure while taking transit. Since we both responded appropriately, the child felt comfortable enough to ask more questions about the material and better engage in what we were saying.
If the concept of gender identity and pronoun clarification is new to you, don’t worry. You may make a mistake and misgender a child.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun for a child, it’s important to apologize and correct yourself as soon as possible. This shows that you respect the child’s gender identity and that you are committed to using the correct pronouns in the future. Here are some steps you can take if you make a mistake:
Remember, it’s important to create a safe and inclusive environment for all children, regardless of their gender identity. Making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process, but what’s most important is that you show a willingness to learn and correct your mistakes.