Advocates all over the world are trying to create change. From eating less meat to saving the environment, to fighting for equality by to erasing the gender pay gap, to us here at Ayana by trying to provide better mental health resources to minority communities. Some are successful in making worldwide change and others keep fighting because that is what advocacy and making a difference is all about. Most recently, gender fluid advocacy made a huge leap in their work. As of September 2019, the gender pronoun: ‘they’ was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, along with over 500 other words.
Adding a word to the dictionary may not seem like a lot for some, however, this is the largest dictionary company accepting the non-binary identity of so many people, and will encourage so many others that they do not have to fall into the binary gender boxes, of woman or man.
Non-binary and gender fluid people have existed for as long as time. Native American societies identified five different genders. Many other cultures have made use of a multitude of words over time (some derogatory and some not) that have represented people who do not fit into the boxes that the western society has set up: man and woman.
Occasionally, we are changing the language because it naturally develops in new ways in people’s lives, like switching “thee” to “you”, which can be seen as a similar change to this one. People no longer only go by she or he, but also they, it is part of how people identify and want to represent themselves.
Many celebrities have joined the courageous people in changing their gender pronouns to ‘they’ recently, and it is important to recognize what this takes. Unfortunately in our society, being yourself is not always accepted without ridicule, but getting this word in the dictionary is a great step in the right direction. Sam Smith, a popular artist, recently turned to Twitter to tell their followers they are changing their pronouns to ‘they’. As well as Lena Waithe, Angel Haze, Asia Kate Dillon and many others.
Some people challenge the importance of pronouns by suggesting. “it’s just a word.” However, it is important to understand that with this word, comes a label about who you are. That label comes with assumptions. Assumptions that you feel like a woman or a man, and with the expectations that you will act as such. Thus, it doesn’t seem fair to constrict people who do not feel as if they identify with either one or the other (man or woman) to those labels and stereotypical expectations.
One Merriam-Webster editor told TIME Magazine that “some people are surprised and think these are innovations, but in lots of instances, we’re recording changes in language that have already taken place.” Although this is true, people have been using these words to identify themselves and how they feel, giving greater credence to the importance in feeling accepted as gender-fluid. As the dictionary accepts it, so will many of the past-challengers, and hopefully more social movements and legislation will be put into place to make people feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Another movement that has made a difference in the lives of many transgender and gender fluid people is the change effected in many gender-neutral bathrooms in large universities, corporate buildings, and public places. Again, something that may seem like a small step is really society making huge steps towards acceptance of everyone, however they identify.
The world is changing around us, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t change with it. People should encourage themselves and others to be who they want to be. Gender is fluid. Gender is part of who you are, and it does not need to be what you are assigned to birth. You have a right to honor and embrace your identity, every part of it.
Ayana and Non-binary Gender
Ayana celebrates every part of people, and wants them to feel comfortable expressing who they are to the world and in therapy. The struggles that some people face in accepting what gender they identify with is one thing that some of our therapists specialize in, not only because they studied it, but because they have lived it. Ayana’s mission is to provide you with a therapist that reflects your identity so that you are understood and honored.