Spring 2017: “Gender Pronouns” Literary Gems

We received many outstanding essays for the Spring 2017 Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.

“Matching the Outside with the In”
—Cierra Mattos, grade 10, Westerly High School, Westerly, R.I.

Sex is what you are born as. It is the identification on your driver’s license or birth certificate. But gender is a wide range of different identities, and although it might be hard for some to comprehend, there is a wonderful feeling of belonging that comes with it…To elaborate, sex is what is on paper documents and what not, and gender basically says, “Screw you, documents!”
—Ava Forand, grade 8, King Philip Middle School, West Hartford, Conn.

As of right now, if you type “they” as a pronoun for a singular person in a Microsoft Word document, the automatic grammar corrector will ask you to change it to “he” or “she.”
—Raquel Galiano, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

A few months ago, my friend and I were messing around after school, sliding across a frozen lake, when they turned to me and said, “I don’t feel like a boy.” I stopped and looked at them with their longish hair, purple nails, and favorite octopus earrings. “Okay,” I said. “Do you want me to refer to you as she?” They shook their head. “I don’t always feel like a girl either,” I simply nodded and hugged them.
—Renée Smith, grade 11, Great River School, St. Paul, Minn.

The “gendered box” you speak of is visible in everyday life in Japan: in the university bathrooms where countless girls perfect their flawless makeup; on the trains where groups of schoolgirls cover their mouths when they smile so as to appear more feminine, and salarymen return home late from hours of overtime; in the classrooms where the hypermasculine atmosphere dominates; in fashion where kawaii (cute) culture is the ideal; in everyday conversations where different words for ‘I’ and ‘yes’ are allocated according to gender, where certain expressions are labeled as too ‘masculine’ for women to use appropriately.
—Anna Ellis-Rees, University of Cambridge, Cambridge (UK)

Immersed in a community of mainly Asian immigrants, most of my friends’ families share similar values and ideas—negative connotations about the LGBTQ+ community. If my friends and I aren’t even allowed to paint our nails, how would our parents feel if we suddenly came out one day as LGBTQ+?

—Judy Zhou, grade 9, Centennial High School, Ellicott City, Md.

With each new technological invention, a new word comes into existence. For example, the word “selfie” became a dictionary recognized word with the emergence of cell phone cameras. If we are fine with creating new words and changing definitions for words that describe objects or actions, we can do the same for people.
—Dot Brown, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

Being told they were supposed to act a certain way strictly based on genitals caused them a great deal of pain… It made them feel like they were an actor in a movie they didn’t belong to.
—Egypt Moujid, grade 11, Great River School, St. Paul, Minn.

Trying to avoid the embarrassing name-calling like “faggot” and “queer” from the kids I grew up with made it hard to be true to who I was. I understand this isn’t exactly what you are referring to in your article, but it isn’t just about pronouns—it shares the idea of someone calling you something you don’t feel like inside. While I knew I was attracted to men, it wasn’t until someone referred to me using one of these slang terms that I felt dirty and as if there was something wrong with me, or I was doing something wrong.
—Brandon Bowers, Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore.

She dresses like a woman and portrays herself as one, but her physical appearance only does as much as she can hope. People still call her ‘sir’ or refer to her as ‘him,’ and even though she politely corrects them, it still kills her on the inside because no matter how hard she tries, she is not ‘woman enough.’

—Heidi Reyes, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

In a world where tragedy, violence, and loneliness roots itself into the everyday; where authentic community feels sparse; where a clear distinction between reality and artificiality is lacking, the least one can do is show love and respect to those one encounters.
—Emily Thomas, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

Honestly, I never knew what I was until I found out online that I don’t have to be either, which was like heaven.
—Toni Gonzalez, grade 11, Social Justice Humanitas Academy, San Fernando, Calif.

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