In the English language, pronouns are regularly used to refer to individuals. Often when we’re speaking about someone in the 3rd person, we use pronouns that imply a specific gender (e.g. “he” is implying a man/boy or “she” is implying a woman/girl). These implications are not always accurate, and these assumptions can be potentially harmful to others; it often implies that someone must demonstrate their gender through appearance, how they talk, act, etc. Using a person’s correct pronouns respects their gender identity and guessing/referring to someone using the incorrect pronouns can be offensive and oppressive.
Some examples of singular first, second, and third person pronouns include she/her/hers and he/him/his, as well as gender-neutral pronouns like they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hir. Some folx may prefer not to use pronouns at all and instead use their name (e.g. “Alex has great ideas” “I really enjoy Alex’s company”).
Sometimes the pronouns that someone is labeled with, do not necessarily indicate their gender. One way to help normalize the sharing of pronouns is to first share your own such as “Hi, I’m _____, and my pronouns are ____” or “Hi, I’m _______, and I go by the pronouns ______.” You could also include your pronouns in your email signature, website bio, and name tags at events. Do not ever force someone to share their pronouns; keep in mind someone may not feel comfortable or safe to do so. After sharing your own pronouns, you might ask someone what their pronouns are: “May I ask your pronouns?” or “How should I refer to you?”
For more information, check out: My Ponouns.org
Vice recently published an article about how stressful the improper use of pronouns can be to a person in the workplace. Catch it here: