Getting Used to Using New Names & Pronouns

she/her/hers
he/him/his
they/them/theirs
ze/zir/zirs
Why It's Important to Use a Trans Person's New Name and Pronouns
 
Many trans people find it uncomfortable, disrespectful, and even offensive to be referred to by the wrong name or pronouns. It can also trigger feelings of gender dysphoria or cause them to feel unsafe or that you don't love them or care about them as much as you actually do. The best way to show your care or support for a trans person in your life is to actively, respectfully, and as consistently as possible use their correct name and pronouns, even when they aren't present.
Why Trans People Change Their Names and Pronouns
 
A person's name and pronouns can change at any time in their lives, and sometimes they change many times. This can happen for many reasons, including but not limited to, the person exploring their feelings of gender, reassessing or updating their previous understanding of gender, to protect their personal safety, and other reasons. The important thing to remember is they are a human being; their identity and feelings are always valid and deserving of respect, just like your own.
 
How to Get Used to Using New Names & Pronouns
 
 
1: Adjust Your Perspective
Many people have trouble switching over to using a person's new name and pronouns after learning they are as trans. Thoughts, even unconscious ones, can lead to speech and action; thus, slipping up on the proper use of a person's name and pronouns is often a result of harboring thoughts and perspectives that do not align with the trans person's true identity. To overcome these challenges, you will need to retrain the way you think of, and view, that person.
For example:
Think to yourself: Arien is a MAN. Regardless how he was born, how pretty he is, how much he likes pink, or what he does or does not have under his clothes, he is a real, true MAN. He is not a cisgender man, but he is a transgender MAN and he deserves to be called a MAN and respected as a MAN just as much as any other MAN.
 
2: Train Yourself
 
Everyone learns differently—through verbal, visual, textual, and other cues. Practice will not make you perfect, because no one is perfect, and it is very rare that anyone can completely transform their automatic behavior overnight. However, practice can help you make progress, and that progress may be the difference between offending or triggering the person(s) you care about, and making them feel loved and accepted. Because it is easier to notice and correct name and pronoun misuse in writing, below are various ways to practice using a trans person's new name and pronouns in speech.
 
Note: If you are experiencing significant difficulty even in writing, you will want to begin by performing the below exercises in written form, and once you have made comfortable progress writing the correct names and pronouns, then switch to practicing these scenarios out loud.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Find a place where you are alone, or otherwise comfortable speaking seeming nonsense aloud to yourself (in the car, in the shower, in your home, etc) and practice the below exercises, in the order listed, out loud and as often as necessary until you feel confident in your ability to avoid offending the trans person in your life.
 
Exercise 1
Look at a photo of the trans person, or imagine them as you last saw them in person or in a photo/video. Focusing on their face, imagine you are speaking to them, using their correct name and pronouns.
Hello, Jamie Doe. I understand you identify as nonbinary and your pronouns are they, them, theirs. 
Exercise 2
Now imagine someone else and pretend you are speaking about the trans person to this other person while the trans person is still within hearing distance of you.
Hello, Bob. Have you met my nibling (non-binary niece or nephew) Jamie? They are visiting from Oregon right now and they're working on their master's degree, for which I am so proud of them. Jamie, this is Bob, a friend of mine from work.
Exercise 3
Imagine you are having a conversation with one or more specific person(s) in your family/workplace/friend circle who are also familiar with the trans person. For this scenario, picture you are undoubtedly alone with the person(s) (in other words, that the trans person is nowhere within sight or earshot). Imagine the person(s) are accepting and using the correct pronouns and name. The goal of this exercise to use the correct name and pronouns as much as possible, even in a situation where you know the trans person is not around.
Person A: Did you see Jamie today?
You: Oh yes, their hair was too cute!
Person B: Oh, it was! And I liked their outfit, too, especially that big rainbow cape.
You: Yes, I really admire how brave they are, to wear their pride so openly in such a conservative area. I'm so proud of them and I hope they are proud of themself, too.
Exercise 4
Imagine the same scenario as Exercise 3 except this time, the other person(s) are using incorrect names and pronouns—either intentionally or unintentionally. This time, the goal is to continue using the correct name and pronouns regardless who is around and regardless whether those around you respect the trans person's identity, or consistently use their name and pronouns, too.
Person A: Did you see John today?
You: Oh yes, I saw Jamie. Their hair was too cute!
Person B: Oh it was! And I liked his outfit, too, especially that big rainbow cape.
You: Yes, I really admire how brave they are, to wear their pride so openly in such a conservative area. I'm so proud of Jamie and I hope they are proud of themself, too. 
Exercise 5
Imagine a scenario in which the trans person is initially in the conversation, but leaves the area completely. While the trans person is in the conversation, have there be a time where you speak about the trans person in the third person in front of them. For this situation, imagine everyone respects the trans person's identity.
Person A: Hi Jamie!
Jamie: Hi everyone.
You: Thank you, Jamie, for joining us for breakfast. I was going to invite you to dinner, but then thought, "They really liked this diner's pancakes as a kid; I bet they'd prefer breakfast instead."
Jamie: I do! Thank you for remembering. I hope you all don't mind if I use the restroom?
You: Of course, kiddo.
Jamie leaves.
Waitress: Hi, what can I get you?
Person A: Our nibling will have pancakes.
You: Oh, and can you bring them some maple syrup? They'll want that, too.
Exercise 6
Finally, imagine the same scenario as Exercise 5, but this time, you are the only one consistently using the correct name and pronouns, and must therefore serve as a polite role model for those who are not.
Person A: Hi John!
Jamie: Hi everyone.
You: Thank you, Jamie, for joining us for breakfast. I was going to invite you to dinner, but then thought, "They really liked this diner's pancakes as a kid; I bet they'd prefer breakfast instead."
Jamie: I do! Thank you for remembering. I hope you all don't mind if I use the restroom?
You: Of course, kiddo.
Jamie leaves.
Waitress: Hi, what can I get you?
Person A: Our nephew will have pancakes.
You: Oh, and can you bring our nibling some maple syrup? They'll want that, too.
 
3: Be Consistent
 
A trans person's correct name and pronouns should be used at all times, not just out of consistent respect for their identity, but also because inconsistent practice of their names and pronouns will increase your chances of doing so even when the trans person is around or within earshot.
4: Ask Others to Help You
You can ask the trans person, or another person in their life (ie, their partner, parent/guardian, etc) to correct you whenever you make a mistake. This lets them know that although you have made mistakes and anticipate making more, these mistakes are not intentional and you DO care about the person and are even willing to have your mistakes pointed out to you publicly in the spirit of changing your ingrained habits.
Keep in mind, though, that the person you've asked to do this (especially if it is the trans person themself) may be too shy to actually act on your request, even if they have agreed to it.
5: Be An Ally
 
Do not mistake silence as consent or agreement. Just because a trans person does not speak up when an incorrect name or pronouns are used in reference to them does not mean they are not feeling offended or triggered by it. Trans people often do not speak up because they are not sure how to politely do so without offending or otherwise hurting the feelings of those who made the mistake. Some trans people are shy, reserved, or socially awkward, and experience difficulty speaking up for themselves, no matter how uncomfortable, offended, or triggered they may feel. Instead, they might look away, give an awkward laugh, pretend to not hear or notice, withdraw from the conversation, or react in any number of other ways that may not be readily apparent or correctly interpreted by those around them. If they do so, it is up to you, as their ally and friend/family/colleague to help correct others by serving as a role model—in other words—consistently using the correct name and pronouns no matter which ones others are using. 
The consistent, respectful use of a trans person's correct name and pronouns is the simplest and most fundamental way to support them and to show your love and acceptance for them. Trans people are human beings; they are not only worthy of your effort, but they will appreciate it more than you may ever realize.
For example:
"Please let me know whenever I mess up on your name or pronouns and please correct me. You're important to me and so I really want to improve myself by reducing my mistakes in the future."
Arien Reed    All Rights Reserved