Member Stories: Danny Mendoza, Public Benefits & Insurance Navigator, Whitman-Walker Health

July 23, 2021

DannyMendoza.jpegDid you know that they/them is a pronoun, like she/her or he/him? We spoke with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East member Danny Mendoza, who uses they/them pronouns, about why pronouns are so important and about what it means to them to be non-binary.

Danny explained, “I use they/them pronouns, I’m non-binary, and I identify as trans-masculine. The actual term non-binary is an umbrella term; all it means is that I do not identify as a man or a woman.” They explained that their identity means that they were socialized as a female when they were a kid, and “now I’m in a more masculine-assuming role.” Danny said, that for them, “the beautiful thing about being non-binary is that I am deciding what my gender means to me and what that journey looks like for me.”

“Unfortunately,” Danny continued, “people thinking that there are only men and women in this world is so prevalent that they/them pronouns are never assumed.” People even argue that they/them is not proper grammar, even though people often use “they” for a person if they don’t know their gender. And non-binary genders are not at all new. Danny explained that “part of colonization has been erasing entire genders. There are so many 3rd, 4th, 5th and just gender expansiveness around the world, historically, traditionally. I’m Mexican, and in the Zapotec culture there is a still-recognized third gender of the Muxe people.” Because of colonization, Danny’s “trans and non-binary ancestors went from being high-regarded folks in society with incredibly necessary roles to now fearing for our lives.”

This history is one reason it’s so important that we all get to know when and how to use they/them pronouns. Ultimately, it’s a matter of respect. Danny explained that “right now if I go out in the world, I’m not going to be gendered correctly because they/them isn’t part of the default. So I’m already saying, ok I have to guard myself and put on some energy to deal with this right now.” But when “on top of that if I’m interacting with folks I’ve already met and have said hey these are my pronouns and continue to have to correct those folks every single time, it’s more and more demanding.”

So, this #PrideMonth and beyond, commit to learning and using people’s proper pronouns. Thank you, Danny, for the education and reminder!