WHAT ARE PRONOUNS
Whether we realize it or not, we frequently use pronouns when speaking about other people. Often, when speaking of a singular human in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied—such as “he” or “she”. But there are a range of other pronouns that do not have a gender implied.
Some examples of gender pronouns are:
she/her/her/herself (often used by individuals who might identify as girl/woman/female)
he/him/his/himself (often used by individuals who might identify as boy/man/male)
ze/zir/zir/zirself (often used by individuals who might identify as gender-nonconforming, genderfluid, gender neutral, or genderqueer)
they/them/their/themselves (often used by individuals who might identify as gender-nonconforming, genderfluid, gender neutral, or genderqueer; also used to refer to multiple people).
This list is nowhere near exhaustive and there can be any number of combinations of these and other pronouns.
WHY DO THEY MATTER?
Often, people make assumptions about the gender of another person based on the person’s appearance or name. These assumptions come in large part from our societal conditioning. Traditionally, society has taught us that certain outward appearances, names, voices, or behaviors are associated with a certain gender identity. These assumptions aren’t always correct, and the act of making an assumption (even if correct) sends a potentially harmful message—that people have to look or act a certain way to demonstrate the gender that they are or are not. Using someone’s correct pronouns is a way to respect them, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them. In addition to this, sharing your own pronouns (even without being asked) can help set a tone of respect for diverse gender identities and create a safe space for people to feel comfortable sharing their own.
HOW DO I USE PRONOUNS?
How you could ask:
“What pronouns do you use?”
“What pronouns would you like me to use?”
How you could share:
“I’m Sal and my pronouns are ze, zir, and zir.”
“Alex, I prefer they and them, but he is fine too.”
“My pronoun is they.”
Other approaches to pronouns include choosing not to go by pronouns, or having no preference. You could try:
“Just my name, please.”
“Feel free to mix ‘em up!”
“No pronouns for me!”
Thank you to the following resources, which helped shape the above content: