Last updated: October 2021

International Pronouns Day

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are words which stand in for a name such as she/her, they/them, ze/hir, e/em.

Asking people to use the correct words for you, such as your chosen name and pronouns, can be a frightening thing to do but can also be a huge step towards feeling more comfortable in yourself. Asking someone to use your correct pronouns is a reasonable request and something that they should be respectful of. It is also okay not to know what language you want to use for yourself, and people should be similarly respectful of this.

Are there any pronouns beyond she/her, they/them, he/him that one can use?

Yes! Don't be afraid to try out new words. Part of the process of finding the correct language to talk about yourself can involve changing or experimenting with the words you use. Various gender-neutral pronouns have been created over the years as alternatives to the English binary options.

The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog has a list of gender-neutral 3rd person pronouns and a list of resources about their history.

Are pronouns for life?

Finding the most comfortable and useful ways to talk about yourself can be a liberating process that sometimes involves trying out new words such as pronouns or names. These words can change over time, or fluctuate – for instance some people feel like using she/her pronouns sometimes and he/him pronouns at other times.

There is often pressure put on people to describe their gender in a certain way and for this description to remain the same over time.

While it is difficult to resist this pressure, you are always the most important person when using language to describe yourself. This includes names, nicknames, pronouns and the language used to describe your body – anything that refers to you is your own choice.

Why is it important to respect someone's pronouns?

Respecting people's pronouns is about human dignity. It shows that you see people for who they are and respect one’s right to express multiple and intersecting identities freely.

What can I do to be a better ally to trans and gender diverse people?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for someone pronouns can be made common practice. For example, you could share your pronouns in a meeting when introducing yourself and encourage others to do the same. You can also be proactive by sharing your pronouns when introducing yourself to someone new. Remember that people might also choose not to disclose their pronouns, and that's okay too!

  • You can add your pronouns to your email signature, meeting display name, and social media accounts

  • If you get someone's pronouns wrong, apologise and move on. Just say sorry, correct yourself and carry on with the conversation.

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