June is Pride Month, let’s take this opportunity to learn a bit more about the importance of correctly using pronouns.
What are pronouns?
Gender pronouns refer to the set of pronouns that an individual uses to identify themselves. They reflect the person’s gender identity—one’s internal sense of self and their gender that is not outwardly visible to others.
Some examples of pronouns include: she/her, he/him, they/them, he/they, she/they, she/he/they or any combination of the above. There are also some who do not use pronouns at all as they are not culturally or personally reflective of their identity.
You might have noticed, we use pronouns a lot in our day-to-day life! They’re how we identify people in conversation and writing when not using their name.
For example, while we might use someone’s name on first reference, like “Riley went to the shops”, we’re less likely to use it again on second reference “and she bought peppers”.
Think about how many times you say or write a sentence like the above, that’s a lot of pronouns!
Why do they matter?
Using a person’s correct pronouns is a sign of respect, inclusivity and a way to affirm their identity. You can relate it to how we think of the importance of correctly saying a person’s name.
When you pronounce a name correctly, people are appreciative and feel seen. Conversely, think about how you feel when someone mispronounces or misspells your name, there’s often a feeling of discomfort. Pronouns are similar.
Using the wrong pronouns can be hurtful and cause someone to feel uncomfortable and disrespected.
So how do you know a person’s pronouns?
The only way to know someone’s pronouns for certain is for them to tell you. Gender identity is not outwardly visible. We need to be mindful to not make assumptions about peoples pronouns based on their name or appearance.
Generally speaking, it’s always best to begin by using non-gendered language (they/folks/people/everybody) unless otherwise indicated.
If you feel comfortable, when introducing yourself you can say something like “my name is Breanna and my pronouns are they/she, would you like to share your pronouns?”
If you’re not comfortable asking, listen for cues on how people refer to themselves and then emulate those when you refer to them.
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable sharing their pronouns. If someone declines your offer to share, that’s okay.
We can help create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable sharing their pronouns by continuing to share our own. Consider including yours in your email signature, put them in your Zoom name and mention them in your verbal introductions. Try to get in the habit of actively sharing them rather than relying on others to make assumptions.
What happens if you get it wrong?
It’s okay! Trying is better than not.
It’s okay to make mistakes and correct yourself.
If you realize, or someone tells you, that you used the incorrect pronouns, apologize and try again next time. It’s a learning process.
And if you’d like a little extra guidance, check out the recently updated Editorial Standards Guide, page 30 has some great tips.
Additionally, there’s lots of information on the connect Pride Month page, and the following resources specific to pronouns are a great place to start your learning journey: