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Pronouns important when identifying LGBTQ people

Tori Wolfe-Sisson speaks during a panel discussion at the inaugural Birmingham Black Pride conference at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. (Reginald Allen Photo, For the Birmingham Times)
By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times

Misgendering—referring to a transgender person with a word, especially a pronoun, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify—is a huge issue for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community. So, an effort is being made to educate people about the proper use of pronouns.

Tori Wolfe-Sisson, cofounder of BLK Pearl, an organization for black, brown, and indigenous transgender and queer women, uses pronouns “they, them, theirs” in place of “she, her, hers.”

“My pronouns are mine,” Wolfe-Sisson said. “I want you to respect me and I want to know that you respect me by acknowledging the pronouns I’ve chosen, … not by using someone else’s pronouns correctly…. [When you misgender someone], you’re outing them, you’re traumatizing them, and you’re putting them in an unsafe situation that could get them killed.”

Wolfe-Sisson won the Advocacy Award at the opening banquet at the inaugural Bham Black Pride weekend, a celebration of the city’s black LGBTQ community, held from August 17 through 19. Wolfe-Sisson married spouse, Shante and the two were the first same-sex couple to get married in Alabama in 2015.

As for “labels” and the LGBQT community, African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) minister the Rev. Robyn Burnett said she doesn’t believe any labels should be associated with the cause. The focus should be on individuals.

“For me, everyone is a child of God and was created by God,” she said. “So, I have worked hard on not labeling anyone because we try to get away from labels to not hurt feelings. … You need to be very careful and understand that people are individuals, their differences are important, and we need to try and respect them.”

The Rev. Dave Barnhart, pastor of Birmingham’s St. Junia United Methodist Church and an LGBTQ advocate, said his mission is to spread the truth—and that includes all people.

“The Good News is for everybody,” he said. “I’ve been fighting for LGBTQ inclusion in the Methodist church for years. … I try to advocate for open and affirming churches.”

Click here to read more: Outreach; Trans Women.

This story was updated on Aug. 23, 2018, at 2:38 p.m. to correct the pronouns.