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The importance of pronouns
Personal pronouns are used within the English language when we speak about ourselves and each other. Most often, when we are speaking of a single person in the third person, personal pronouns have a gender implied (such as “she” to refer to a woman/girl or “he” to refer to a man/boy, however, more and more there are those of us who use neutral or non-gender specific pronouns (like the singular they/them/their).
People often make assumptions about the gender of other people based on their appearance. These assumptions can be wrong and, when wrong, have the potential to be harmful. What’s important here is respecting each other’s personal pronoun use. This not only shows respect, but it works to build trust and inclusivity. Choosing to ignore someone’s pronouns could imply that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.
What’s important is respecting everyone, their pronouns and using them correctly.
- How do I know someone’s pronouns?
You can’t tell someone's name or pronouns just by looking at them. The best way to know is to ask.
You can also model the kind of introduction you are looking for by sharing your name and pronouns and then asking them, “What’s your name and pronouns?” or “How should I refer to you?”.
If someone takes the time to share their name and/or pronouns with you, use it.
- What if I use the wrong pronouns?
Apologize when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay. If and when someone points out a mistake that you’ve made, acknowledge the harm that was done, apologize and move on. Remember, it’s about the impact and not your intent. If you need to, practice so that the person’s pronouns become second nature.