What are your gender pronouns?
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
If you have been reading some of what I have written and presented over the last 15 years or so for Psychiatric Times, you might wonder why I need an introduction.
You have always had my name, though you might wonder what the “H” stands for. It is for Hillard and, more recently, a designated new Hebrew name, Hillel.
The MD points to my being a physician and psychiatrist.
From my postings, you probably know that my wife is a wonderful singer, my daughter is a career counselor, and my son a Rabbi. With my son’s career and much other content, you know I am Jewish.
Yet, something about my identification may still be missing. As I electronically met a new mental health care editor, I noticed after her name, in parentheses, was she/her/hers. Even though I have not been using such gender pronouns to identify myself, nothing much seemed unusual nowadays regarding her gender identification. Then, the second time around I noticed the following underlined “more information why.” That was a first. Like most psychiatrists, “why” is a watchword of our profession and our constant question, clinically and in research. So, I clicked on it.
The “why” was explained in a position by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, titled “Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace.”1 It describes gender identities as being internal and thereby not necessarily obvious by appearance, especially with our current range of known gender fluidity.
The experience of being misgendered can be psychologically harmful and distracting. If public, it can be embarrassing and divisive.
Using gender pronouns over recent years seemed to arise out of campus life and the advocacy community. New gender-inclusive pronouns have emerged, such as they/them/theirs. Such inclusive pronouns may not be easy for everyone to use.
I never caught on to that trend, even though I was Medical Director of one of the only gender transition clinics in the Midwest from the 1990s to 2012. I also wrote about the subject for Psychiatric Times, including the early August 31, 2010, article “If I Am Not For Myself: The Trials and the Triumphs of the Transgendered.”2
Perhaps my omission was a reflection on my older age. Or perhaps a remnant of the old Freudian “blank screen” to not self-disclose to patients and the public. However, that desired anonymity has gradually dissipated with a societal cultural trend toward self-revelation and the increasing ease of patients finding formation about us on the internet anyways.
As to any editorial policy of Psychiatric Times, there has not been any formal guidelines. Given that the American Medical Association does not have a policy, Psychiatric Times has not had one up until now, but is now considering checking with authors.
So, here goes. I recently won the 2024 Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry, so how can I not follow the Human Rights Campaign Foundation “why” for public gender identification? Here is my gender identity. And, if you like, what is yours? And your patients’? Do you ask them and how has that worked out?
Dr Moffic (he/him/his) is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.
1. Talking about pronouns in the workplace. Human Rights Campaign. Accessed November 6, 2023. https://www.thehrcfoundation.org/professional-resources/talking-about-pronouns-in-the-workplace
2. Moffic HS. If I am not for myself: the trials and the triumphs of the transgendered. Psychiatric Times. August 31, 2010. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/if-i-am-not-myself-trials-and-triumphs-transgendered