Gender Identity and Why Pronouns Matter


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An academic advisor discusses why a simple change of pronouns means so much

Jess Lueck, Copy Editor

Cat Hillyard is an academic advisor on the Coon Rapids campus and is blazing a path for gender rights on campus. 

A sign posted on Hillyard’s door that lists hir pronouns and how to use them in conversation. JESS LUECK

Hillyard identifies as genderqueer meaning that zie does not identify with a specific conventional gender. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify with neither traditional genders, both of them, or a combination.

Genderqueer is just one of many non-binary genders. People who identify as genderqueer may use a variety of pronouns.

“I tried they and them, but zie and hir felt like coming home. Zie and hir were comfortable, like how I see myself,” Hillyard said.

Adjusting to a person’s new pronouns can be a big change. “I know it’s hard, I know it’s difficult, but it’s me,” Hillyard said. 

Along with hir pronouns, zie also explains that hir appearance makes a huge impact on hir daily life as well.

“On the weekends I tend to dress more masculine, but I prefer professional attire that tends to look more feminine,” Hillyard said. This can cause people to automatically gender hir in a way that Hillyard does not identify with.

For students struggling with how they identify, students that are coming to terms with their true identity, or students that are under stress there are many options on campus and in the surrounding communities.

Hillyard helped put together a site, hosted by Anoka-Ramsey, that has campus-based, Twin Cities, and state-wide resources. 

Anoka-Ramsey students who need support can schedule an appointment with Hillyard. Appointments can be made in the academic advising center, behind the information desk on the Coon Rapids campus.