WHAT IS A PRONOUN?
Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns. If you say "That's Raina, She is nice," the word "she" is the personal pronoun which is being used in place of "Raina".
WHAT IS A GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUN
A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun which does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed.
There are many different pronouns that exist in the world, and you are the only person who can decide which pronoun is the right one for you.
Here’s a simple guide, not an exhaustive list of gender pronouns.
WHEN & WHERE
Tips About Using & Understanding Non-Binary or Genderqueer Pronouns:
Normalize Pronouns - A great way to do this is including your pronouns in email signatures or on social media bios. This helps to normalize the idea that people shouldn’t just assume they can tell someone’s pronoun based on a the traditional gendering of a name.
Ask - Ask everyone their pronouns, not just the person you think might be trans or non-binary. Make asking pronouns as natural as asking what someone’s name is when you meet.
Effort - The only way to get better at using non-binary pronouns is to step outside of your comfort zones. Forget what you think you know about grammar, and make an effort to respect our identities by using non-binary pronouns.
Practice- A rainbow of gender-neutral pronouns have been part of my regular spoken and written vocabulary for sixteen years. Using them is as natural to me as binary pronouns, but that didn’t happen overnight. The only way to not get flustered using non-binary pronouns is to practice, practice, practice!
Don’t assume- You can’t tell a person’s gender identity or pronouns based on how they look. Gender presentation isn’t the same as gender identity, and neither presentation nor identity are a indicator of what pronouns someone uses. The only way to know what someone’s pronouns are is to ask. Also, don’t assume that someone’s pronouns are fixed. Gender is fluid, and their pronouns may (or may not) change over time.
Include pronouns- Include PGP - Preferred Gender Pronoun or Personal Gender Pronoun (the latter being the most inclusive phrasing as doesn’t insinuate respecting someone’s pronouns is optional) in your ice breakers/go-arounds when you start a meeting. Are you involved with organizing a conference? Include a place for pronouns on your name tags/badges. You can even buy pre-made pronoun stickers
Apologize- Mistakes happen. When you misgender someone say you are sorry, and fix your language moving forward. Don’t make a huge deal about your mistake and force the trans/non-binary/genderqueer person spend a lot of time and energy consoling you for misgendering them. The best apology is not doing it again.
Non-binary greetings: Instead of saying “ladies” or “guys” to a group of people try to incorporate language that isn’t gendered like “folks,” “y’all,” “friends” etc. into your vocabulary
Correct - When you hear someone use the wrong pronouns for a mutual friend correct them. Sadly, sometimes the only way to get people to respect non-binary pronouns is if they feel socially shamed into doing so. Part of being a good ally to non-binary, genderqueer, and trans people in your community is helping other people get our pronouns right.
One size doesn’t fit all - As people become more comfortable and familiar with using the non-binary pronoun “they” I’ve noticed a trend that people will use it as a default pronoun for any non-binary person. “They” is an awesome pronoun, but it’s not mine. I feel just as misgendered by people referring to me as “they” as I do when they use “he” or “she.”
WHEN & WHERE
HOW YOU COULD ASK:
"My pronouns are _____. What about yours?"
“What pronouns do you use?”
“What pronouns would you like me to use?”
HOW YOU COULD SHARE:
“I’m Jade and my pronouns are ze and hir.”
“Leo, I prefer they and them, but he is fine too.”
“My pronoun is co.”
“ Just my name, please.”
“ No preference!”
“No pronouns for me!”
WAYS TO MAKE LANGUAGE MORE INCLUSIVE:
“Hey, everyone” or "How are all y'all doing?" in a group setting instead of “Hey guys!” or “Hey ladies!" or "How are you guys doing?"
“They are a first year” when referring to a scholar instead of “they are a freshman”
Notice when someone refers to another person by their occupation if you naturally use a particular pronoun. (i.e. Person A: “I just got back from the doctor’s office.” Person B: “What did he say?”)
WHAT IF I MAKE A MISTAKE?
It’s okay! Everyone slips up from time to time. The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, like “Sorry, I meant (insert pronoun)”
If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
A lot of the time it can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. Please don’t! It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is absolutely not their job.
SUPPORTING GENDER IDENTITY
Ask & acknowledge someone's preferred pronouns.
Continue to normalize by including your own preferred pronouns.
When someone accidentally misgenders an individual, gently correct them.
When you see gender based discrimination, Speak up!