Pronouns are used in everyday speech and writing to take the place of a person’s name. Once we know someone’s pronouns, it is important that we always use them. When we are meeting people for the first time when must take the time to ensure we know their pronouns so we can show our respect to those in our life.
What are pronouns?
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. In the context of gender, pronouns are used to identify someone’s gender in the third person. Pronouns allow us to interact with one another while expressing ourselves. We may use the same pronouns throughout our life, our pronouns may change throughout our life or they may change throughout the day, day to day, or situation.
Some examples of pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, ze/hir/hirs, they/them/theirs, she/they, him/they. However, there are many, many more pronouns that people may use.
Why do pronouns matter?
Our pronouns directly link to our gender identity and how our gender identity is expressed. When we use pronouns to refer to others, we affirm their gender identity. When we use pronouns to refer to someone that are incorrect it can make that person feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, invisible, and unsafe. Using the wrong pronouns by mistake or on purpose is called misgendering.
So how do I respond when I misgender someone?
If you are having a conversation with someone and they let you know you are not using their correct pronoun:
- Carry on
Example: My apologies thanks, yes, they like ice cream.
If you are having a conversation with someone and you realize you are not using their correct pronoun:
- Carry on
Ex. He plays guitar in a band, I mean she pays guitar in a band.
Mistake and slip ups happen, there is no need to profusely apologize or draw more attention to the error. Drawn out apologies could make everyone feel awkward.
How do you ask someone their pronouns?
We of course cannot know someone’s pronouns by looking at them or hearing them talk. We need to either ask someone their pronouns and/or listen when someone tells us their pronouns.
Ways to share your pronouns.
- When you introduce yourself (in person and virtually)
Hello, my name is Elisabeth, I use ae/aer pronouns.
- Next to your name in email signatures, online video platforms, social media bios, gaming platforms, business cards, name tags etc.
Why might someone not share their pronouns?
We must recognize that sometimes people might choose not to share their pronouns. Or the pronouns they ask people to use might change depending on the situation. Someone might not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns in a particular space or they might feel unsafe because of transphobia and other acts of discrimination. They might not share their pronouns when introducing themselves or they might share pronouns that do not represent them but are used to protect one’s safety.
The most important lesson to remember is to use the pronouns any individual asks you to use.