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What can I do about a friend who doesn’t use my preferred pronouns?

Dear Urban Diplomat,

I identify as genderqueer. I’ve asked my friends to refer to me using neutral pronouns (my preference: they, them), but one of them just isn’t getting it—he regularly misgenders me. I’m not sure whether he’s absent-minded or trying to make a point. Either way, it makes me feel uncomfortable and disregarded, and I find myself avoiding him. Got any suggestions?

—Mistaken Identity, Dovercourt Park

It’s taken most of the world millennia to start accepting alternative gender definitions, so cut your friend a bit of slack for not catching on right away. Next time he uses the wrong pronoun, firmly tell him how you feel without accusing him of doing it intentionally. If he’s receptive and agrees to try, be patient as the two of you adjust, and gently correct him when he slips up. But, if he dismisses you or outright refuses, it’s time to friend-dump him. If the guy won’t change a few words out of deference to you, chances are he can’t be counted on for support when you need it either.

Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com

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