Dear Minerva,

I read your column every week. I had a huge discussion with my father this last weekend about some friends who are in transition. All of them use different pronouns than the one they were assigned, but they were forthcoming with that information, so there was no confusion. However, I couldn't define to my dad how you would ask someone, so we got on the discussion of whether it was rude or not to ask a person what pronoun they choose to associate with. Can you give some clarity or guidance?


Don't Want to Offend

Dear Don't,

It is wonderful that your dad is trying to be respectful. Our world is finally recognizing the limitations of traditional terminology leave so many people out of the picture. I think variety is beautiful and since I also feel authenticity is ideal, self-identity needs to be respected and embraced. It is not necessarily rude to ask a person how they identify. After all, it is not what you ask but how you ask it. One approach, if your father feels the situation warrants asking, is to self-identify first. It could put the other person at ease if he said something like, "My pronouns are he/him. What are yours?" Most of the time though, people will be forthcoming with their choice of pronouns and will respect questions and attempts at understanding. Treat everyone with concern and respect and you will know you are doing your part to help.

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