For closeted LGBTQ+, outing can be extremely dangerous, and has been linked to increased rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide. In extreme cases, this can be especially threatening for those who live in countries where LGBTQ+ communities are targeted, such as the 72 countries where homosexuality is a crime and the 15 countries that criminalize gender expression that does not correspond with a person’s assigned sex at birth.
In one instance, a Moroccon influencer named Sofia Talouni actively encouraged her female followers to create profiles for dating apps with the intention of outing gay men. Her actions led to over 100 men being outed in Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal. These actions endangered the lives of the outed men who faced several attacks, threats, and, in some cases, were even kicked out of their homes.
However, even in many countries where LGBTQ+ rights are recognized, like the United States, there are still homophobic sentiments from many people and outing can oftentimes lead to severe consequences. In 2014, a researcher named Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt was outed as transgender in an article written by Caleb Hannan for Grantland. The article was thought to have led to her eventual suicide after her identity was revealed to investors in her work. Research has shown that transgender people are at a much higher risk for suicide, with approximately 48.3% of transgender adults seriously consider suicide in the past twelve months, as compared with approximately 4.0% of the population. Unfortunately, suicide is a prevalent occurrence in the transgender community because of the lack of acceptance in many communties.
With the rise of social media activism, a topic being brought to light is the usage of pronouns.. Many infographics are being created and shared, such as a famous one known as ‘The Genderbread Person’, to encourage people to normalize pronouns by putting them in their social media bios and handles. Normalizing the inclusion of your pronouns on social media platforms is thought to prevent outing transgender people, which could ulitmately prevent them from being attacked and/or harassed online.
By introducing yourself using your gender pronouns — even outside of social media — you are identifying yourself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and helping create an accepting space for members of the community. Moreover, it’s important to remember that there is no real way to “look” cisgender or transgender and while society often assigns a gender based on certain features, you shouldn’t assume someone’s gender until you know for sure.
Someone may present as one gender but identify as another, or none at all. It is generally agreed upon, within the LGBTQ+ community, that normalizing pronouns is helpful for the LGBTQ+ community to become more accepted into general populations.
Lastly, while some worry about disrespecting others by asking their pronouns, this instead shows why it is crucial that asking about someone’s pronouns should be normalized and to eliminate the stigma surrounding asking for pronouns. The consequences associated with misgendering someone are far worse than taking a few seconds to ask about someone’s pronouns. For more information, Amnesty International has provided a comprehensive guide on how to share and ask pronouns in a respectful way.