By Shana McCauley
Last September, one of our hosts at Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Ore., reported an interaction with a worshipper. She saw that a person was weeping and asked if they were okay. They replied that they were just so happy that we had pronoun pins – that it was amazing.
It’s just a button, right? But it’s not that simple – a pronoun pin says something about who we are as a community and who is welcome and safe here.
We are in a moment of cultural shift, learning to recognize what so many people already knew – that to be free to self-identify one’s gender is fundamentally important to how a person operates in the world.
For most of us, our expression matches the sex that we were assigned at birth (this is called being cisgender). But for many, the sex they were assigned at birth does not match their gender – and for some, it is important to be able to share pronouns so that others understand more about them and how to interact with them.
Did you know that 42% of lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, and other genderqueer (LGBTQIA2+) people have seriously considered suicide? That number reduces by about half when people are affirmed by those around them in their sexuality and/or gender.
At Trinity, we seek to be a place that is radically hospitable, and a fundamental part of that is to invite and celebrate people who come as they are. By wearing a pronoun pin (no matter how obvious our own gender may seem to us), we can help make a space for everyone to safely express who they are. Another way to be gender-affirming is to ask people their pronouns and to verbally share our own pronouns when talking with new people.
For many of us, this is a new linguistic habit—and change can be hard—but living into the Kingdom of God calls us to always stretch “with God’s help,” as we promise in the Baptismal Covenant, as we work to create God’s beloved community.
Note: Trinity’s pronoun pins come from Genderbands, an international nonprofit organization that serves the transgender, gender non-conforming, and other gender-diverse communities. The organization is largely volunteer-run and executes programming, services, and events on both a local and international scale.
The Rev. Shana McCauley is canon for cathedral life at Trinity Cathedral, Portland, Ore.