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A Quick Guide to Gender Pronouns

What are gender pronouns?

Gender pronouns are a type of pronoun that people use to refer to themselves. When talking or writing about a person, after establishing the person by name, you will often use their gender pronoun in place of their name.

For gender non-confirming, transgender, and non-binary people, the most common gender pronouns (he and she) may not fit them perfectly or it may not be obvious based off their appearance what pronouns they use.

However, studies show that using correct pronouns with transgender youth can help to lower rates of suicide and depression.

Note that sometimes gender pronouns are sometimes referred to as preferred gender pronouns, however gender pronouns are not a preference, but part of someone’s identity, so it is best to simply call them gender pronouns.

non-binary teenager on color background

What are some examples of gender pronouns?

She, her, hers and he, his, him are often the pronouns that first come to mind when we think about gender pronouns. However, there are many more gender pronouns that a person may choose to use.

They, them, theirs are also commonly used gender pronouns. While we often think of these pronouns as plural, they can be used in the singular form as well. You probably use them in the singular form and do not even realize it.

For example, if someone dropped a wallet but you are not sure who dropped it, you might say “someone dropped their wallet.”

non-binary young man on color background

Some other examples of gender pronouns include, but are not limited to:

Zi, zir, zirs

Zi, hir, hirs

Ve, ver, vis

Tey, ter, tem

It is also important to note that some people might have multiple gender pronouns that they use, such as she and they. In that case, they may not have a preference for one over the other or they may use one or the other depending on the setting.

While it may be uncomfortable at first to use pronouns that you are not familiar with, it is important to respect the identity of people within the LGBT community.

Portrait of happy non-binary person waving gender fluid pride flag

Why are gender pronouns so important and why should I always use someone’s identified pronouns?

You may think you can know someone’s gender pronouns by looking at them, but that is not the case. Pronouns are not dependent on appearance at all. Using the incorrect gender pronouns can be seen as disrespectful or insulting, especially to transgender or gender nonconforming people.

Using someone’s correct pronouns shows respect and that you care for the person’s safety, since it can sometimes be unsafe for people within the LGBT community to be misgendered.

 

How do I know what someone’s gender pronouns are?

Ask! In order to ask someone their pronouns, state your pronouns first and then ask them what theirs are.

For example, you might say, “Hi my name is Nicole and I use they/them pronouns. Just to be sure, what gender pronouns can I use to refer to you?”

Portrait with copy space at dusk of a non-binary gender woman looking at the side outdoors

What do I do if I call someone by the wrong pronoun or overhear someone using the incorrect pronoun when referring to someone?

Everyone makes mistakes and like most mistakes you make in life, if you call someone by the wrong pronoun it is best to apologize right away. A simple “sorry” and correction is plenty; you do not want to make the person feel uncomfortable with an elaborate public apology.

Drawing too much attention to misgendering someone within the LGBT community may also be unsafe for the person. If you notice someone else using the incorrect gender pronoun to refer to someone, gently remind them of the person’s gender pronouns.

headshot portrait from a non-binary lesbian hispanic non-binary looking at camera with confident identity

What if someone doesn’t want to share their pronouns with me?

That’s okay! Some people might not be sure of their gender pronouns or might feel uncomfortable or unsafe sharing them with you. In that case, you can ask the person what they would like to be referred to as or simply refer to them by name.

How can I subtly let someone know what my gender pronouns are?

Sometimes it can be hard to let people know your gender pronouns without making a big deal out of it. If you want someone to know your gender pronouns, you can let them know your gender pronouns when you let them know your name.

You can also include your pronouns on your nametag, in your email signature, on your business cards, or on your CV.

female hand turns a dice and changes unequal sign to equal sign between symbols of men and women

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