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News

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  • New research shows most (86%) Brits do not understand that negative mental health is one of the most likely impacts of misgendering someone.
  • A quarter do not understand why people change their pronouns, but almost a fifth (18%) would like to learn.
  • Instagram and Mermaids are launching a new Insta Allyship Guide and calling for more people to think about their pronouns and #ShareWithPride to help normalise the conversation

Instagram and Mermaids have released new research showing the lack of understanding around pronouns, and the impact of getting them wrong. 

The research1 of over 2,000 UK adults, revealed a third (36%) did not recognise non-binary pronouns – including “They/ Them” and “It/Its”. More than half (56%) do not think someone can refer to themselves using multiple pronouns – for example when identifying with more than one. 

The research of over 2,000 UK adults, revealed a third (36%) did not recognise non-binary pronouns – including “They/ Them” and “It/Its”. More than half (56%) do not think someone can refer to themselves using multiple pronouns – for example when identifying with more than one. 

This lack of basic understanding has led to the vast majority (85%) not knowing the meaning of the term “neopronoun”- a set of singular third-person pronouns typically created with the intent of being a gender neutral pronoun set – with most (95%) not recognising “Xe/Xem” or “Ze/ Zir” pronouns. 

Pronouns are an important part of how many LGBTQ+ people communicate their identity, and have made headlines recently with singer Demi Lovato announcing they are non-binary. To support the LGBTQ+ community, Instagram recently announced a new feature where people can display their pronouns in their profile.

But despite the conversation becoming more mainstream, Brits are missing the basics. Three in five (61%) never ask someone their pronouns when meeting for the first time, and less than one in ten (6%) said they ask each new person they meet. When asked why, 45% said they did not feel the need to ask, and a fifth (22%) presumed a person’s pronouns based on their physical or sex-based characteristics. 

Unfortunately, most (86%) Brits do not understand one of the most likely impacts of misgendering someone is negative mental health, and nearly a third (31%) think it would simply ‘cause offense’. Mermaids, recognised for supporting transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse young people, ran a poll on it’s Instagram account last week revealing 86% of its respondents have had their mental health affected by misgendering, and 82% had been misgendered in the last month alone.

An anonymous teen, who has been supported by Mermaids, said of misgendering: “When someone can’t be bothered to try, because it’s too much effort for them, then that really stings. It feels like I am not being heard, and that they don’t take me seriously, and they think that this is a phase that I’ll soon get over…that hurts, and it feels very uncomfortable… It makes my heart sink.”

But there is hope. A third (38%) of Brits agree pronouns are an important part of a person’s identity, and whilst a quarter say they don’t understand why people change their pronouns, nearly one in five (18%) want to understand more, or learn how to have conversations.
To help, Instagram and Mermaids are launching a new Insta Allyship Guide on @mermaidsgender which highlights the importance of pronouns, how, what, and when to ask about them, and the mental health impacts of misgendering. The Guide will include a collection of Instagram posts, opinions and perspectives from a wide range of transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse creators, including transgender actor, writer and director @jake_graf5, genderqueer charity worker @lorcabork, and founder of @girlswillbeboys_(a black and queer storytelling platform) @ellessechar .

“Every day we see LGBTQ+ people and allies use Instagram to build community, support one another, and engage in important conversations about identity, expression, health and social justice. We recently gave people the ability to add their pronouns to their Instagram profile and are excited to work with Mermaids to launch the Allyship guide to raise awareness and drive acceptance so that everyone can share their true selves with pride, not just now, but all year round.”

Kevin Kilpatrick (he/him), LGBTQ+ community lead at Instagram

“Mermaids supports young people who face hostility simply because of who they are. Our research with Instagram shows we face a misgendering crisis, with the UK public not understanding the mental health impact that using the wrong pronouns can have on young minds. Normalising the pronouns conversation is the first step in helping people to accept the identity of others, and creating a more inclusive society where everyone can be authentically themselves.”

Mermaids CEO Susie Green (she/her)

“Being misgendered can have incredibly damaging effects on your mental health. Ultimately, the only reason for misgendering boils down to somebody being ignorant on the subject or actively misgendering as a hostile act, and neither one feels safe. I use ze/zir pronouns to claim my identity on my own terms. I encourage everyone to have open discussions on what pronouns people use, as a simple way to show that you’re aware of trans and nonbinary identities, and want people to feel safe enough to exist as themselves in your presence.

Lorcan Bevan Niss, genderqueer creator (Ze/Zir)

Mermaids and Instagram are calling for more people to think about their pronouns and #ShareWithPride to help normalise the discussion and create a more inclusive society.

1Nat rep survey of 2000 UK citizens conducted by Censuswide between 11-15 June 2021.