Pronouns are words that a person uses to identify themself in place of their name; almost everybody, including cisgender people, uses pronouns. Some examples of pronouns include: she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, per/per/pers, etc. While some of these pronouns may be new to you, many of them have been widely used in English for a long time. Singular 'they' has been in use in standard English since the 1300s!
Pronouns are an important and useful way to celebrate and affirm Trans folks. Using pronouns correctly, and correcting yourself and others when mistakes are made, is life-saving practice.
A quick note on the language of “preferred” pronouns. If a person offers you pronouns to use to speak about them, using them is not a preference, it is an expectation. Please just use “pronouns” to talk about a person’s pronouns!
Practice and Recovering from a Mistake
If you would like to practice pronouns, here are a couple of resources we recommend!
How to recover from a mistake
Mistakes can happen. Here are a couple of do’s and don’ts for recovering from a mistake:
- Correct yourself and move on. “Lee is so great! He…. excuse me, I should say she… has been a great resource to students.”
- Hold friends accountable. “Lee is so great! He always wears the most amazing outfits.” “Lee’s pronouns are she/they. They are stunningly gorgeous though.”
- Make a concerted effort not to make the same mistake again.
- Profusely apologize: “I used the wrong pronoun! I am so sorry! Please forgive me!”
- Mention how “hard” it is to use someone’s pronouns: “I am sorry for the mistake. This is hard for me because I am not used to pronouns.”
People may have varying reactions to being misgendered depending on several factors. If you harm someone by making a mistake, don’t expect or demand any particular response.
People who use more than one set of pronouns:
You will encounter folks who use one or more sets of pronouns. Do not fear! Using more than one is easy! Below are some examples of how you can speak about folks who use more than one set of pronouns.
“Lee said that she would meet us at 11:30, but they have not arrived yet.”
“Callan’s friends celebrated his birthday by baking them a cake and surprising hir after work.”
Spanish Language Pronouns & Gender Neutral Spanish
Many Latinx folks may choose to include Spanish pronouns in addition to or instead of English pronouns, as a conscious effort to center their Latinx identity and bring multiple identities into a space.
Elle or Ellx/Elle are often used as gender neutral Spanish pronouns, seen as equivalent to they/them.
The words Latinx and Latine are often used to describe a group of mixed gender people in a gender neutral way. While Latinx/Latine may seem new within the context of higher education within the United States, the use of “x” has been used in the Spanish language to signify non-binary forms of gender for more than 20 years.
How to Ask for Someone’s Pronouns
Asking for someone’s pronouns can be super easy! If you’re meeting someone for the first time, an example of how you can ask for pronouns could be:
- “Hi! My name is Jayanti, and my pronouns are they/them. What are yours?”
- “Hello and welcome to our event! Could everyone introduce themselves with their name and pronouns?”
A great way to make people feel comfortable sharing their pronouns is to share yours. Consider adding your pronouns to your business cards and email signatures if possible. Of course, we should always invite or encourage people to share their pronouns, not force them. If you don’t know somebody’s pronouns (because you haven’t been able to ask yet) a good habit is to refer to people using they/them pronouns until you know.