Understanding pronouns beyond the two options of she/her/hers and he/him/his creates
space for experiences and identities outside of the gender binary. Pronouns are one
of the ways we portray our identities. When someone asks you to use their pronouns,
they are asking for you to respect their identity. Correctly using an individual’s
preferred pronoun or using a gender-neutral pronoun if not indicated or unsure is
an easy way to show respect and create a welcoming and inclusive space.
It is never safe to make assumptions about an individual’s pronouns based on how they
look and how we perceive them. Whether intentional or unintentional, using the wrong
pronouns can be hurtful, angering, and seen as a sign of disrespect. It is like saying:
“you do not matter to me, and I do not respect you as a person.” Choosing to ignore
or disrespect an individual’s pronouns is not only disrespectful and hurtful but also
oppressive. It can make a person feel not only disrespected but alienated, dismissed,
invalidate or dysphoric.
It is OK if you made a mistake. Let's discuss what you do next.
If you realize the mistake at that moment, you can say, “Sorry, I meant (insert pronoun).”
If you become aware after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
Do not make your apology an event of mass proportion. Though you may feel bad, it
is not the responsibility of the misgendered to make you feel better.
Take an active role in your classes and correct students using the wrong pronoun.
In the classroom, you can say, "Logan uses the pronoun he," and continue the discussion.
If a faculty or staff member or student uses the wrong pronoun, do not ignore their
error. Ask the person misgendered if they would like your help in correcting that
person. You can approach the person and say, “I noticed you were getting referred
to with the wrong pronoun earlier, and I know that could be hurtful. Would it be OK
if I take them to the side and remind them about your pronouns?”
Asking for someone’s pronouns is as easy as saying: “Which pronouns do you use?” You
can start the conversation by introducing yourself using your pronouns, for example,
“Hi, my name is Professor Guiterrez, and I use the pronouns she/her/hers.”
You can also say, “I ask everybody this question” or “I don’t make any assumptions
about the pronouns people use; which pronouns would you like me to use for you?”
Normalize asking everyone what their pronouns are regardless of their appearance.
Not just people you are unsure of. As spaces change, checking in again with what someone
else’s pronouns are.
It is okay not to know what pronouns you would prefer to use for yourself, and it’s
okay if your pronouns change. The most important thing is to educate yourself and
learn what makes you feel seen and understood. There is a wealth of resources about
the meaning of different pronouns. This page is a good place to start. It is okay
to try out different pronouns as you learn what fits best.
Here is a list of options to start with.