When popular, lighthearted TikTok dances and social media activism combine, the product is a trend like the “pronoun check” challenge.Why It’s Newsworthy: The “pronoun check” challenge went viral on TikTok recently, with over 13,000 users participating. This trend impacts the transgender and nonbinary communities.
What’s a ‘Pronoun Check’?
This trend, which has users dancing to a snippet of Daft Punk’s 2001 hit “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and sharing their opinions on their preferred pronouns, went viral in recent weeks and has amassed over 13,500 videos from both large and small creators alike. Some of the most popular videos gained over a million views and hundreds of thousands of likes.
The format of the challenge is simple: Creators introduce a set of pronouns, rate them out of 10, share whether they identify with them and then move to the next set of pronouns. The impact of this trend, however, is not as simple.
Normalizing Preferred Pronouns
With creators of all gender expressions taking part in the trend, some feel like this challenge normalizes the idea of preferred pronouns and transgender identity. Mae Renaldo, a genderqueer third-year graphic design major at the University of Georgia, said this trend makes coming out less daunting for people who choose to use pronouns other than those assigned at birth.
A similar movement meant to normalize preferred pronouns and keep trans and nonbinary people from being targeted, misgendered or harassed came in the form of encouraging people to put their pronouns in their social media bios. This idea circulated through Instagram and Twitter and is generally thought of as helpful for the trans community.
“I think everyone should have pronouns in their bio,” Renaldo, 20, said. “I always go to check someone’s pronouns before I comment or talk about them online, and it makes it a lot easier of a process.”
Fear and Acceptance
Despite efforts of representation and allyship, feelings of cynicism and fear show in some of the “pronoun check” videos, especially those made by trans and nonbinary people. TikTok user @fifthyaksha said in their video that while they want to use she/her pronouns, they don’t feel comfortable using them openly.
“I don’t pass at all and know I will just get hate and misgendered,” they wrote in their caption on Feb. 15.
Genevieve Finch, a nonbinary trans woman and a fifth-year international affairs major, said that while she is glad to see trans people express themselves, she feels skeptical about the “pronoun check” challenge and how it affects the transgender community.
“Trans people are living their lives in danger every day, like, especially transfeminine people,” Finch, 23, said. “Going outside is an act of political resistance, unfortunately, and it’s like, I don’t know how much like, sharing videos online is really changing that.”
With the medical transition that many trans people need to feel safe being upwards of six figures, Finch encouraged people to support trans and nonbinary people directly by donating to their GoFundMe pages, something she said that many people who claim to be allies to the trans community fail to do.
“It’s important to win hearts and minds,” she said. “But like, it doesn’t matter unless those hearts and minds are going to show up and fight for, like, real trans issues.”
Autumn Sanford is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in criminal justice in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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