Putting Pronouns into Practice
We have discussed the importance of pronouns before and have heard from folks in the agency that they would like more resources surrounding this. Here are some best practices and tools to become more familiar with using pronouns.
Some Things to Consider
- Pronouns can be an indicator of gender identity but not always. We should not assume someone’s gender identity based on the pronouns they choose to use or how they express themselves (through their name, clothing, hair style, mannerisms, etc). By allowing someone to share their pronouns with you, you are not assuming a person’s gender identity.
- It is okay for people to not share their pronouns with you. It’s good practice to start a call or meeting by sharing which pronouns you use, if you feel comfortable. This opens the conversation and creates a safer space for someone to share. By sharing your pronouns, or having them listed in your email signature, you’re visibly showing support and fostering openness around gender identity and expression.
Examples of Commonly Used Pronouns:
She/Her or He/Him These pronouns do not imply gender identity
They/Them These are used in the singular form
Ze/Hir These replace she/her, he/him, they/them. Ze is pronounced zee and hir is pronounced here. There are other alternatives as well. This is why we make it commonplace to ask for pronounce and it is okay to ask how something is pronounced.
She/They or He/They Some folks may use multiple pronouns. If someone explains their pronouns are She/them, for the most part those can be used interchangeably, but it’s always good to ask for clarification.
No pronouns-use their name Some will choose not to use or share pronouns. That’s okay! Use their name when talking to or about them. Practicing asking for pronouns is about creating space for people to feel comfortable. Some people choose not to use a specific pronoun or do not feel comfortable to share right away or in every situation.
Things to remember
- Practice is key to becoming comfortable using the correct pronouns, especially when we need to overcome our own perceptions and preconceived notions of a person. Use various pronouns such as “they” and “ze” while visualizing the person who uses them. Practice introducing yourself and including your pronouns.
- When addressing groups of people use gender-neutral language or someone whose pronouns you don’t know such as, “siblings,” “third graders,” “students”, “friends,” “folks,” “all,” or “y’all,” rather than “brothers and sisters,” “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am,” or “sir.”
Use descriptive language if you do not know a person’s gender, pronouns, or name. For example, “Can you give this paper to the person across the room with the white t-shirt and short brown hair?”
People change. It’s good to check in.
Resources for practicing using pronouns and understanding why they are important
You will notice that the practice sheets and resources may differ from one another in regard to definitions or commonly used pronouns. Some pronouns are used more universally, but just as we are all learning and growing so are commonly used words and phrases.
- Take time to use this sheet to practice using various pronouns. Practice sentences
- Really great one-pager from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits that compiles different pronouns, how to ask for someone’s pronouns and what to do if you or someone else makes a mistake.
Thank you to Kaylah for passing along Tik Toks that discuss pronouns and non-gendered articles in Spanish. Check them out here, here and here.
- Video: Why Pronouns are Important
- What To Do (And Not Do) When Someone Asks for Different Gender Pronouns
- What People Get Wrong About They/Them Pronouns