Pronouns, what and why?

When talking about someone in the third person in many languages, the referrals used are often gendered. This way, people will more often than not refer to someone as she/her or he/him, without know if these are the right pronouns. Because, just like someone’s name, you can’t tell someone’s pronouns by their appearance or name.

February 8, 2022

   ☻   

Inclusion

Pronouns, what and why?

Assumptions about gender can be very harmful. They force people to act, dress, and talk in a certain way to be referred to by the pronoun they want, or they feel unheard or not seen by being referred to with the wrong pronoun.

Using someone’s pronoun correctly is a show of respect. Just like you would not call someone by the wrong name, you also don’t call someone by the wrong pronoun.

But how do you know how to refer to someone in the third person? More and more people are sharing their pronouns in their social media profiles, e-mail footers, or networking names. This is a great way to create a space where everyone, whether cis, trans, queer, non-binary, straight, or somewhere else on the gender and sexual orientation spectrum, considers each other’s pronouns. But knowing someone’s pronouns beforehand might not always be the case.

Another great way to learn about another person’s pronouns is to introduce yourself to them and share your own pronouns. More often than not, people will either ask you what you mean by pronoun or share their own.

But please know that not everybody might feel comfortable or safe sharing their pronouns in every situation. Therefore, asking someone directly about their pronoun can be hurtful and harmful. Especially in a group setting, this might be very uncomfortable for someone. Introducing your pronoun first is a great way to let the other person know it’s a safe space for them to share if they want to and feel OK doing so.

Adding your pronouns to your email footer is another great way to make people aware of the importance of pronouns and respect people’s “personal” pronouns. By personal we emphasize the unique and individual pronouns people prefer. Whether it’s she/her, he/him, she/they, they/him, they/hem, him/they/she, other combinations or other neopronouns such as e/em, thon/thon, etc.

If someone uses more than one pronoun, for example, they/she, he/she/they, or she/e, switch them out when talking about them. The different pronouns are there for a reason and are all part of the person’s pronouns set. For example, say: “I saw her yesterday; they made amazing brownies!” It’s that easy!

Lastly, if you’re part of a large corporation where direct contact via, for example, phone or e-mail is used, it’s a great idea too. Besides giving clients the option to add their name, add their pronouns. This way, there won’t be any mix-ups when opening an e-mail, and it shows again that your company is a safe space for everyone. When creating a form, don’t make it a multichoice only limited to M/W or she and him. Make sure to make it an open space so people can fill in any pronouns preferred, as there are many more than she/her and he/him pronouns.

On the website www.mypronouns.org you can find out much more about pronouns, how to use them correctly, what to do when you make a mistake, and how to contribute to an open, inclusive, and open world by sharing your own pronouns.

The header images feature two amazing pin by I own by You're Welcome Club (click here to buy these pins) and by Heckinunicorn (click here to buy that pin). Wear your pronouns on your hoodies, seater or bag (if you're able and safe to) and let everybody know you're a safe-space to share their pronouns with.