The first lady is the wife of the president of the United States. What if the president was female? The first man? Would that be the title of the husband of the female president? What if the president was gay, hoping there would eventually be LGBTQ+ president sometime? Perhaps none of these are concerns because we haven’t gotten that far yet. Language evolves but only for those who want it to evolve.
If I asked you to describe what I’m doing in the third person, you would probably jump to the pronoun She. Now, I’m assuming you are a decent person and you acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people. You are not homophobic because you didn’t even think that I could have a different preferred pronoun, but something is wrong, right? You are an ally, but I’m telling you that the fact that you didn’t even think twice before you assumed my pronoun is not your fault, doesn’t make sense?
Language is very old, older than before people stopped searching for the gay gene, older than before women were considered equal to men. It is built and structured based on the old conservative ideals. When we refer to a random third person, we always reach for the pronoun “He”. The Bible is written in the same way. The word mankind is equivalent to the word humankind, but the word womenkind doesn’t really exist. Invitation cards are printed with Mr. and Mrs. and you can hardly find His & His merchandise.
While there is certainly a lot of homophobia and sexism, we forget our language encourages that in so many ways. More sensitive language is available only for those who care to use it. Not many people ask you what your preferred pronoun is before they address you. Many people don’t know the existence of Gender-neutral pronouns like ze or hir. The point I’m trying to make here is that being an ally doesn’t just mean that we accept their sexuality. We have to change the perception that language dictates.
Language can be very powerful as a way of providing validation. It can tear you down through slurs such as dyke or faggot or it can hold you up by empowered use of Gender-neutral pronouns. For there to be more acceptance, it is crucial that an important barrier, language, is re-rendered as accepting. While it has been great strides that we are finally able to have gender-neutral pronouns, it is still a part of the privilege that we all share. We have to stop the causal dividing of an audience as just men and women. Ze and hir should become everyday pronouns and the only way to start is to ask everyone you interact with for their preferred pronoun from right now.