Grandparents have vital roles to play in making grandchildren feel loved and embraced for who they are and who they become. Through words and actions, grandparents can make their grandchildren's path in life smoother.
At the same time - as in every generation before - children today are growing up in a world that is new and different, and their identities often reflect those changes. While gender diversity is not new, terms like "non-binary" or "transgender" may feel unfamiliar and even uncomfortable to older generations. But when these words are being used by close family members, many grandparents want to learn.
When multi-generational families gather, whether for a Passover seder, the High Holidays, Thanksgiving, or a family vacation, opportunities often arise for older family members to show their unconditional love and support.
Given these realities, the Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Grandparents Network, and Keshet are collaborating on a series of conversations to support grandparents and other loving adults who are interested in providing affirming spaces for gender expansive, non-binary, and transgender young people. These sessions provide grandparents with foundational knowledge, shared language, and inclusive practices.
One topic covered in the sessions: Pronouns. We use pronouns all the time, and gender pronouns are a direct extension of our identities, which is why they are so important.
Normalizing the sharing and use of preferred pronouns can have a life-saving impact on transgender and gender expansive individuals, especially young people.
If you haven't thought much about pronouns since grade school, here's a quick grammar lesson. Third-person gender pronouns are words that take the place of gendered nouns (e.g., "she," "he," or "they"). For example, if Rachel uses she/her/hers pronouns, we can say, "Rachel walks her dog after work" instead of "Rachel walks Rachel's dog after work."
Keshet, which works for the full equality of all LGBTQ+ Jews and families in Jewish life, has a wonderful resource about pronouns. They share:
You're not a mind-reader, so you really can't know what pronouns someone uses unless you ask. A wonderful way to do this is to share your pronouns first, which in turn indicates that you're open to hearing others' pronouns. It's an easy technique to incorporate in meetings or other gatherings where people introduce themselves. You can say, "My name is Rachel, and I use she/her/hers pronouns." It only takes a second and is an important step toward the inclusion of people of all genders in the space. It also combats gender stereotypes generally by breaking down the assumption that someone must look a particular way in order to be read as a certain gender.
Pronouns are just one aspect of the lives that transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive young people are living today. The issues they're grappling with are new to many grandparents and other adults in their lives.
In Judaism, we believe in the value of, that all people are created in the image of God, and thus, deserve to be treated equally in all facets of society. We are proud to help facilitate learning and understanding, and we encourage you to explore the resources on our and our partners' websites and join us for these programs.
Are you interested in learning more about how to demonstrate your unconditional love and support for a grandchild or other special person in your life? Join us on November 29 for a frank and informative “Gender 101” session geared towards grandparents to support you in providing affirming spaces for gender-expansive, non-binary, and transgender young people.