Pronouns are linguistic tools we use to refer to people - they are a part of our every day lives. You are likely familiar with she/her, he/him, and they/them pronouns, but did you know that other pronouns exist, too? Check out the chart below for some of the pronouns people use!
Why are Pronouns Important?
Pronouns are integral to who we are at our core. Most of us have been taught that we can assume one's pronouns based on their outward appearance, but that is often a flawed approach that is not inclusive of trans, non-binary, and gender expansive folks. We encourage the practice of sharing pronouns upon meeting someone new. If you don't know someone's pronouns, it might best to use their name until you know their pronouns. By sharing our own pronouns routinely, we welcome others to do the same and demonstrate that we understand the importance of honoring pronouns. Using someone’s correct pronouns is an important way of affirming someone’s identity and is a fundamental step in being an ally.
Honoring another person's pronouns means that you respect them and it communicates that they belong in your community. When a person shares their pronouns with you, it is important that you use the correct pronouns moving forward. If you struggle with pronouns, it means that you need more practice using them. Use the resources on our website and MyPronouns.org to familiarize yourself with various pronouns and learn more about the importance of pronouns.
What should you do if you make a mistake?
Unfortunately, mistakes are common and it is likely that you will misgender someone at least once in your lifetime (if not, more). While mistakes are common in the learning process, it often causes pain for folks whose pronouns are not used correctly - especially for trans and gender expansive people. Here are some ways you can address a mistake:
- If someone corrects you, thank them and move on with the conversation (e.g., "thank you for correcting me. I will get it right the next time). We encourage folks to thank others for the correction instead of apologizing. Over apologizing can put the other person in an uncomfortable situation that often pressures them to say "it's okay" when it's not.
- If you notice yourself make a mistake, correct yourself and move on (e.g., "she said - I'm sorry, he said...).
- If you are consistently making pronoun mistakes, it likely means you need more practice and education. We suggest visiting MyPronouns.org to continue your education.
How can you normalize sharing and respecting pronouns?
Since many of us haven't learned to share our pronouns and ask for others' pronouns, it can take time to normalize the practice in class, at work, and on campus. Here are some suggestions to bring these practices into your every day life:
- Add pronouns to your email signature, Zoom display name, social media platforms, etc.
- At the start of work meetings, make it a habit to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and their pronouns if they feel comfortable.
- Here are some respectful ways to ask someone their pronouns:
- “What pronouns do you use?"
- “May I ask what pronouns you use?”
- “When I refer to you, what pronouns should I use?”
- “Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns?” (please note: not everyone is comfortable sharing due to a myriad of reasons, it is important to respect a person's decision to not share their pronouns)