Most people never have to think about what gender pronouns they use. In fact, they may not even be fully aware that they are using them — it is just something that they have always done. But thinking about your gender pronouns — and sharing them, such as in an email tagline — is an important way to show that
you care about ALL people.
Gender pronouns are the words that an individual would like others to use when talking about them or to them. Everyone has pronouns. “He, him, his” and “she, her, hers” are most commonly used in our culture. However, people who are transgender or who do not conform to the male or female gender categories may choose to use pronouns that fall outside of those gender categorizations — like “they, them, theirs.” You can’t always tell what gender pronouns are appropriate just by looking at someone — and you should never assume a person’s pronouns by their appearance
If you haven’t ever had to worry about your pronouns, this issue may seem unimportant. This is an advantage for you: having a single and visible gender identity, and not having to think about how people will refer to you. For others, the use of gender pronouns is critical. If someone uses the wrong pronouns for them, they may feel invalidated and disrespected. People who fall outside of the commonly used gender categories have the burden of telling others what their pronouns are. This can be alienating, marking that person as different or “other.”
A simple solution to this issue is to make gender pronouns part of regular conversation. This can be as easy as adding your pronouns to your email signature, or sharing your pronouns when you introduce yourself to someone. By doing that, you normalize the process. For cisgender people — those whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth — there is little risk in taking this step.
Learning to share our pronouns is a vital aspect of building a more inclusive society. Transgender individuals and those who do not conform to the male or female gender categories often struggle when deciding to tell others their pronouns — or asking people to use them. When cisgender people take the lead in sharing their pronouns, it reduces the stigma associated with talking about gender pronouns. It also signals to others that you are an ally.
Putting this into practice is easy. You can start by changing your email signature line to note your gender pronouns, and then do the same for your LinkedIn and social media profiles. Next, offer your pronouns to others when you first meet them. This can be as simple as saying, “Hi, I’m Mary — I use the pronouns she/her/hers.” If you are introduced to someone and don’t know their gender pronouns, ask! “What are your pronouns” is a direct way to make sure that you do not mis-gender anyone.
At Blackburn Center, we are committed to advocating for the right of ALL people to live free from violence. An important way to do that is speaking out about the marginalization of others. Sharing our gender pronouns gets us one step closer to that goal.