Pronouns Matter: A Gift that Keeps on Giving
by Peggy Hahn (She/Her/Hers), Executive Director of LEAD
Language is changing. Before you shake your head in frustration at the she/her/hers behind my name, think about the power of a name. We give dignity and value by the words we choose when we talk with each other. It is worth our time to understand how pronouns shape relationships.
As we prepare our churches for a wide variety of guests on Christmas Eve, it’s especially important to think of all the ways we welcome people into worship. If you haven’t seen people since the pandemic, and they show up for the first time in a couple of years, a few simple changes can make a big difference.
Here’s a short list:
* Stop referring to God as “He”. We have no Biblical information that genders God. Practice in your own prayer life. Skip the “Father God” and go right to God, Adonai, YHWH, Creator, Immanuel, etc. We have a lot of choices that open the fullness of who God is. Never gender the Holy Spirit.
* Choose The Inclusive Bible for public readings.
* Select songs that are less gendered when referring to God.
* Start recognizing that 1% of the people you know in this country are nonbinary. That may seem like a small percentage to you but when you begin thinking about who you know, and who the people in your pews know, and who their friends know, we can feel the ripple effect of pain and marginalization that we contribute to when we ignore this community.
How do we do this?
* Share your own pronouns. By doing this you invite others to feel comfortable with their own pronouns or their family members nonbinary identity.
* Start noticing every time you gender people or roles. It is remarkable how so much in our worldview is gendered. Awareness is the first step.
As a young girl, my mother signed her name as Mrs. E.A. Dusang. She literally dropped her whole self in her signature, as did most women of her generation. She stopped being herself. When I married, I made a conscious choice to take my husband’s name and to sign my full name, not his! Even still, taking his last name was a big adjustment. When my daughter married, she kept her last name and added her husband’s name. No hyphen, just another aspect to her identity. My guess is that my granddaughters will have none of this. Each generation is getting healthier in their value and dignity of each person.
These are shifts in our identity that breathe life into our souls. The biggest gift we can give is to see someone for who they are. Not to wrap them up in someone else’s way of being but to know God has made them to be their own beautiful self. It feels like the least we can do as people who worship a God who came to us as a newborn.