A tense discussion is brewing online after a mom took to TikTok to share her experience with a stranger inside a Target store. Bridget Beck (@bridgetjbeck) posted a video on Nov. 16, 2023, detailing an encounter she had with a woman who “misgendered” her infant son. Appearing visibly frustrated in the video, Bridget explains that she was using he/him pronouns with the unidentified woman, who repeatedly referred to the child as “they.”
“I get if you want to be politically correct, or if you don’t want to misgender, or whatever. I get it,” Bridget said. Adding, “But I’ve literally said four or five times ‘he’s a boy,’ and you keep saying ‘their.’” The mom explained that she was left “annoyed” and “angry” after the interaction, which appeared to end after the brief exchange. Bridget further suggested that the woman was trying to “push” her views on the family.
Conversations surrounding gender identity and pronoun usage have gained significant traction, with opinions on the matter being split. After sharing her story on TikTok, Bridget was met with a bit of support, although some disagreed with her sentiments.
Gender-neutral pronouns usage is a hot button issue.
Like Bridget, some users on TikTok found themselves hesitant to use gender-neutral pronouns. Some have embraced the idea of using pronouns like "they" to be more inclusive of diverse gender identities, while others may have found themselves resistant to the shift. Bridget’s comment section, which includes comments from more than 1,000 TikTokers, is proof of this divide.
One person noted that Bridget handled the situation better than they would have. To which Bridget replied, “Thank you, maybe a little too much. I was just trying to be polite.”
Another took a more neutral approach to the matter, suggesting the decision to refer to Bridget’s child using they/them pronouns became problematic once it was revealed that the baby was a boy. Bridget agreed with the take, adding that she wouldn't have been offended if her child was misgendered once.
However, there were some who pushed back against Bridget’s beliefs. One person advised the mom to show more grace to the unknown woman. “Sometimes vocal cues are not easy to pick on for everyone. They isn’t misgendering your child,” the TikToker commented.
Misgendering can be harmful to all children.
The use of gender-neutral pronouns will continue to be a topic of discussion among parents. As the conversation progresses, researchers with The Journal of Adolescent Health have stressed the importance of recognizing every child’s identity. According to the study, suicidal behavior is reduced by more than 50 percent for transgender youth who are referred to by their chosen pronouns.
Educational institutions have also taken steps to combat misgendering in schools. In July, two California high school students were suspended for purposefully misgendering their classmate, the New York Post reports.
“A student has never been punished, much less suspended, for accidentally using the wrong pronoun to refer to a peer or staff member,” said a spokesperson for Herbert Hoover High School. “However, a student could be suspended if the action escalated to harassment or bullying.” Upon returning to their studies, the students were required to complete a “restorative justice” training course.