I first heard the “Platinum Rule” in one of my classes. It's a play on the golden rule, instructing us to treat others how they would want to be treated.
This subtle substitution changes the sentiment of the whole sentence, urging people to ignore personal biases and treat others by how they feel they deserve to be treated.
I was instantly enamored by this idiom, partly because I loved the message and partly because I had thought the Golden Rule was the ultimate social law for my whole life. This decree can easily be applied to many aspects of our society, especially in a world where people are being held accountable for actions that previously wouldn’t have been confronted.
Aside from just being a decent human being, the most applicable situation to this rule would be respecting someone’s pronouns.
Many people, especially those in older generations, have been slow to accept the idea of gender fluidity and the use of pronouns. This is mostly because the idea makes them uncomfortable since gender fluidity has only just become widely accepted through Gen-Z and Millennials.
I understand that pronouns can sometimes be confusing and I will admit that I still have to work hard to make sure I use the correct pronouns in certain situations.
However, just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean you can ignore them. People use the pronouns that they do because it helps them feel like their true selves, so by ignoring their correct pronouns, you are essentially pushing them into a category that they don’t fit into.
Let’s think about it in a different way. Picture the classic children’s toy with differently shaped blocks and a wooden box with correlating shapes cut into it.
If you were holding a square block, you wouldn’t try to push it through the triangle hole, right? You’d put it through the square hole because that’s what it is, a square. So if you meet someone who says they use she/her/hers pronouns, why would you use any other pronouns than those that she identifies with?
That person’s pronouns are them, just like that block is a square, so there are no reasons to push any other pronouns on that person because that’s not who they are.
Our society is so obsessed with concrete binaries (boy and girl, he and she, straight and gay) that we completely disregard the fact that most things in life are spectrums. We have at least ten different ways to describe the weather and even more ways to describe our emotions, yet it is so hard for people to accept that gender can be anything other than that of a cis man and woman.
Along with this, some people may not feel like they fit into the male or female gender, leading them to use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. This is often incredibly hard for people to accept, mostly because it doesn’t make sense to them.
However, while gender fluidity and non-conformity can be very confusing to those who grew up thinking gender is strictly binary, it is important to remember the platinum rule and treat others how they would like to be treated.
Returning to the children’s toy metaphor, say someone took the square block and shaved off some of the block so that it was now a circle. Would you still try to fit that block into the square hole? No, you’d put it through the circle hole because that’s what the shape is.
The shape isn’t a square, but it also isn’t a triangle. The shape is its own shape that should be pushed through its own hole. Even though it could technically still fit through the square hole it wouldn’t seem right because it’s not a square.
If someone starts using they/them pronouns, you should refer to them using those pronouns because that’s who they are, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
Just like the circle, people using gender-neutral pronouns should not be pushed into other pronouns just because you think they would fit, but they should be allowed to identify as gender-neutral.
While gender is a spectrum, sex is truly a binary, as there are only two sexes. Sex is an identification based on that person’s biological make-up, but gender is a fluid concept that is not tied to sex. Like how the circle could fit through the square hole if forced, gender-neutral people still have a biological sex, which often leads to people forcing different pronouns onto that person. However, it is important to remember that sex and gender are separate concepts and should be treated as such.
International Transgender Visibility Day was on March 31, a day established in 2009 to promote acceptance of transgender people and advocate for trans rights.
One of the best ways that you can support the transgender community is by simply respecting another’s pronouns. You can do this by using the correct pronouns both when talking with the person face-to-face and when referencing the person when they aren’t around.
You can also help normalize the use of pronouns in society by including your pronouns in your social media bio, Zoom name and whenever you introduce yourself.
It is important to normalize pronoun usage because doing so will allow transgender folks to feel more comfortable sharing their pronouns, as there is still a large amount of violence and discrimination against transgender people.
While it may seem pointless to include your pronouns if you identify with the same gender as you’ve been your entire life or as the gender you appear to be, this incredibly small act has a tremendous impact on creating a more accepting and welcoming society.
Gender fluidity can be a confusing topic, and we as a society have to relearn how we approach gender as a whole concept, but luckily respecting someone’s pronouns is a simple act that can contribute to a more welcoming society.
By treating others how they want to be treated, you can easily make the world a safer place for everyone in it.
Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in anthropology and political science. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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