Pronouns are something that exists in everyday speech. Examples of pronouns include I, me, we, us, he, him, his, she, her, hers, they, them, theirs, it, etc. Pronouns are often used to supplement someone’s name to refer to them. For example, “Have you heard Adele’s latest song? She is so talented”. The pronoun she is referring to Adele. Even if you might not realize it, we all use pronouns every day to speak about ourselves, others, and objects. When it comes to the LGBTQIA2S+ community knowing more about pronouns, sharing your pronouns, and respecting others’ pronouns are small but impactful ways to be affirming. This section offers information, advice, and resources specifically about pronouns.
The sex that someone is assigned at birth (Male, Female, Intersex), is not the same as a person’s gender. The gender someone identifies with can be in alignment, or not, with their assigned sex. For instance, if someone was assigned male at birth, and identifies as a man, this person is cisgender or cis. Cis is a helpful term as it describes when a person’s gender and sex align. If someone’s gender and sex do not align they are transgender or trans, generally speaking. There are many options of terms for what people can use to describe their gender under the trans umbrella. Examples of genders are man, woman, trans man, trans woman, non-binary, genderqueer, agender, and more.
Pronouns are one way in which gender can be affirmed. She/her/hers and He/him/his are gendered pronouns where She/her/hers pronouns are often used by people who are female-identifying and He/him/his pronouns are often used by people who are male identifying. However, these pronouns can also be used by people who do not entirely identify as female or male. For example, someone might identify as non-binary and use some combination of these pronouns.
Pronouns share an important relationship to gender as they can be affirming of how someone identifies. For example, if someone is a trans man and uses he/him/his pronouns, using the correct pronouns affirms this person’s gender. This is also true for people who are not trans. Using the correct pronouns for someone who is cis can also be affirming. For example, if someone was assigned female at birth and uses she/her/hers pronouns, using these correct pronouns affirms this person's gender as a woman.
The pronouns that you use for someone have a much larger impact than you might realize. Using the pronouns that an individual identifies with can be just as impactful as calling someone by the name that they go by. Trans folks have carefully thought about the pronouns that they use. When you use the wrong pronouns for someone, this is called misgendering. Misgendering is uncomfortable for everyone and is both hurtful and harmful for the person being misgendered.
When you ignore someone’s pronouns or use the incorrect pronouns for someone, this implies:
Ignoring someone’s pronouns or consistently using incorrect pronouns for someone is different from making a mistake. Mistakes will happen, and that is okay. What matters is you correct it and move on. When a person uses new pronouns or pronouns that you are unfamiliar with, it can take some practice. Using the correct pronouns for someone also shows that you care about the person. Using the right pronouns for someone affirms their identity, demonstrates your active commitment to respecting them as a person, and indicates that you are committed to developing trust, safety, and respect in your relationships with others.
They/them/theirs pronouns can be used for an individual. The singular use of they/them/theirs pronouns is older than the singular ‘you’ pronoun. If you are interested in learning more about this history, check out this Oxford English Dictionary Article.
They/them/theirs are often considered to be ‘gender-neutral’ pronouns. These pronouns are often (but not only) used by people who are non-binary or genderqueer.
Advice on they/them/theirs pronouns:
In addition to she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs pronouns there are also neopronouns. Neopronouns are pronouns that are often used by some trans and non-binary folks. Neo-pronouns are generally considered to be gender-neutral pronouns. These pronouns expand the English vocabulary for gender-neutral pronouns as some folks may not feel that she/he/they pronouns best describe who they are.
Examples of neopronouns include: xe/xem/xyr, thon/thons/thons, ze/hir/hirs. See the pronoun chart below for more.
Here are a few pieces of advice, things to consider, and information to be aware of when it comes to someone’s pronouns:
|ze (or zie/sie with hir)
|ze (or zie/sie with zir)
|ze (with mer)
|zhe, zher, zhim
|jee, jeir, jem
|tho and thong