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5 Ways Explore Gender Identity and Pronouns + What They Mean to Me

Writing is one of my go-to ways of processing the ways that life is lifey. Lately, I’ve been trying to find the words to describe my gender identity, and it’s felt challenging. Most of the time, I just want to rock my Andrea Gibson shirt that says “my pronouns haven’t even been invented yet” and call it a day. 

To be clear, pronouns do not equal gender, AND this shirt resonates with me because language often feels too limiting, especially when it comes to describing my gender. In a piece I published for Project TeenBirth in 2022, I write the following: “Pronouns alone do not indicate gender, nor do they define it. However, pronouns can be an outward reflection of how a person sees themselves and describes their gender. Gender identity is complex, layered, and expansive and goes well beyond pronouns.” 

My pronouns are they/them, and, to me, these pronouns most closely match the ways I feel and the ways I see and relate to myself. 

Ways I See Myself/Ways I Identify

Basically every day I think about my bestie JB’s IG post: “Don’t stop at memorizing someone’s pronouns… learn to think of them the way they think of themselves.” AND I am sitting here thinking, “How do I think of myself?!” (Does the “man” fairy emoji suffice?!)

I feel a little bit tired of describing myself in relation to what I am not (i.e. I am not a woman; I am not a man), AND sometimes this feels the easiest for me. I’d like to be able to use the words masculine and feminine a bit more to describe parts of myself or ways I experience my gender; however, these words also feel a little too connected to the binary for them to be as meaningful as I’d like them to be. 

I don’t feel like I am “both” (re: the gender binary) or “fluid.” I may feel a little “in between,” but I am not settled on this description. Here’s a list of what does feel true and right for me in this current season of life:

  • I’m Court. Sometimes Courtney, but mostly Court.
  • I’m nonbinary. 
  • I’m a sister.
  • I’m mom to my kitties. Maybe baba too? Definitely a parent.
  • I’m a girlfriend and a partner.
  • I’m “dude,” “my doodie,” “friend,” and “bestie” to my friends.
  • I’m Auntie.
  • I’m trans.
  • I’m “baby,” “sweetheart,” and “babe” to Kat.
  • I’m a daughter and granddaughter.
  • I’m gender expansive.
  • I’m queer.

Ways to Explore Gender Identity and Pronouns (For People of All Gender Identities)

Whether you are cis or trans or curious, exploring gender identity can be a meaningful and interesting way to know yourself more deeply. Below I offer some ideas for exploring gender identity and pronouns. As always, take what works, leave the rest, edit, and add your own ideas (and feel free to share in the comments)!

  1. Use tools for exploration, like the gender unicorn. This can be a good starting point for conceptualizing different aspects of your identity. I suggest doing this a few times and see if your 
  2. Talk about it! Find the folks who enjoy talking/thinking about gender, too, and chat it up. If you have a coach or therapist, consider using that container for exploration. What is your gender identity? How do you describe your gender? How do you relate to your pronouns? Have your gender identity and/or pronouns shifted throughout your life? If so, how? And so on.
  3. Play with gender expression. Are there ways you feel more like yourself? Less like yourself? Are there different versions of yourself you can express through clothing/accessories/makeup etc.? Stay curious about how this play impacts the ways you relate to your gender (or not).
  4. Practice using other people’s pronouns. Especially if that someone’s pronouns are feeling challenging for you to remember/get right consistently, spend time practicing thinking about them, role play talking to them, and remind yourself about the ways they are who they say they are! (Shout out to my friend Andrew for this language.)
  5. Default to gender neutral pronouns when you are talking about someone you don’t know. Then, if/when you get the chance to connect, you can learn who they are in the ways they want to be known. 

Additionally, check out my friend and colleague Maura’s blog about pronouns to learn more!

On This Journey Alongside You

As you explore your own gender identity and pronouns, I invite you to stay patient and compassionate with yourself and the process. There’s a whole lot of societal shit to sift through, AND this is a worthwhile process.

If you are the friend or loved one of someone who is in the process of transitioning, changing pronouns, or coming out, follow their lead, and remember, this is not about you. Connect with your own support system so that you can show up ready to support and celebrate them!

Reach out if you’d like support along the journey! I work with teens, young adults, and parents as they navigate the complexities of these interesting life stages.

*Photo Credit: Alexander Grey on Unsplash

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