A Note on Pronouns
Pronouns can sometimes be a signifier for someone’s gender identity but not always. We do not want to assume people’s gender identity based on expression (typically shown through clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms etc.). By providing an opportunity for people to share their pronouns, you’re showing that you’re not assuming that their gender identity is based on their appearance. ~Mx. Marvel Pronoun Guide GLSEN
On Zoom calls now you often see people’s pronouns listed next to their names, or stated in meetings, “My pronouns are: she/her, he/him, he/they, she/they, they/them, etc.”… This is old news for some, brand new for others. The use of pronouns is likely unconscious for those who have never examined their own relationship with gender. It’s time for all of us to practice being more conscious and inclusive.
One of the easiest ways to show support for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people is by honoring the use of their pronouns. Why? Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them, just as using a person’s name is a sign of respect. ~ Oprah Daily 2019
To create safer, respecting spaces for all, the invitation is to become conscious and honour each person’s use of their pronouns as they determine – not as you guess. We don’t know their story – we are not an authority on anything about them. Their pronouns are their business.
For more in-depth reading, please jump to How do I use personal pronouns?
If you struggle with consciously using a person’s pronouns, use their name instead as you learn. Practice being aware and apologize when you make mistakes. Avoiding gendered language is another way to move beyond the gender binary – practice using person instead of woman or man for example.
I learned a valuable lesson in 2021 about gendering in groups. One client staff member raised the harm done by use of the phrase “you guys”, as a misgendering. This had never occurred to me. Now I hear it everywhere. I encourage all of us to consider how we speak in groups with a new degree of mindfulness to increase safety for all.
Utilize gender-neutral greetings when addressing groups of people. Choose from a variety of greetings to replace gendered introductions like ladies and gentlemen which can alienate staff who identify differently. Options can include:
- All of you
~ Out & Equal Workplace Advocates: What’s Your Pronoun? Strategies for Inclusion in the Workplace May 2020, Lead Author Madelyn Gelpi, Senior Manager of Stakeholder Engagement
For more information on non-binary identity, see:
Out & Equal’s Best Practices for Non-Binary Inclusion in the Workplace.
Read the historic January 2017 Special Issue of National Geographic magazine on the shifting landscape of gender and download the discussion guide for teachers and parents here.
“Now that we know XX and XY, and blue and pink, don’t tell the full story, it is time to write a new chapter to ensure that we all can thrive in this world no matter what our gender — or decision to not identify a gender. That is why National Geographic has set out to tell the story of the gender revolution.” ~Susan Goldberg @susanbgoldberg, Editor in Chief of National Geographic, Editorial Director of National Geographic Partners
Stina helps leaders see, study, and support themselves – in service of their visions for what the world can be. She designs and leads processes to create new human capacity and well-being, new shared awareness, new relationships, new trust, new vision, new clarity, and new plans. Read more about me here