Sharing pronouns signals to all people that they belong
I learned about pronouns in third grade. I remember my English teacher sharing that a proper noun is capitalized and refers to a specific person, place, or thing. A pronoun refers to an individual and therefore needs to be single stated as he or she. We only use plural pronouns when referring to groups of folks, not individuals.
Imagine my surprise when I learned about the importance of pronouns to support folks that identify as gender non-binary or along the gender spectrum or as trans. Their pronouns can be very helpful and help others identify and gender them properly.
That’s the thing with diversity. It requires us to do things differently if we want to get different outcomes. That often means unlearning things that were rooted in our childhoods and unlearning to learn new approaches.
What are Pronouns
I love how GLSEN defines pronouns as “the words you may like others to use for you in place of your proper name. Some examples include “she/her” or “he/him” or gender-neutral pronouns, such as “ze/hir,” [pronounced: zee/heer] or “they/them”. Some people use specific pronouns, any pronouns, or none at all. Here is an example of using “they/them” in a sentence: John is substituting for me today and they are an incredible mathematician.”
As a straight cisgender Ally in training, why should I share my pronouns? It’s pretty obvious that I identify as female and I’m gender conforming. Well, unfortunately that narrative is not true for folks that identify as gender non-binary, trans, or queer. Here’s a privilege I have as somebody that’s part of the majority group, I don’t have to share my pronouns to express my identity.
As an ally, we can leverage our privilege for good.
I have chosen to add my pronouns to my email signature, LinkedIn profile, and Zoom account profile. I have them wherever it seems appropriate to signal to others that I want to be more inclusive. It by no means indicates that I’ve arrived and that I’m an ally. Allyship is in the eye of the beholder. It gives people an opportunity to see that I’m striving to be better. I’m trying to signal to others that I want to create a more inclusive environment.
I met someone at my daughter’s school function and kept in touch with her via email. After a few months of communications, she said I really appreciated your pronouns in your email signature. My son identifies as gay and I know that you’re someone I can talk to about it without fear of judgment. A simple adjustment in my email signature opened a door to a new level of support for someone else. It didn’t cause me pain to make that adjustment. It only increases my ability to form relationships with others. That’s the thing about being an ally. Often the subtle, yet intentional actions we take can lead to bold outcomes.
Sharing your pronouns is a baby step towards being an ally. It might also have a ripple effect to other underrepresented minority groups (BIPOC, disabilities, ages) in addition to the LGBTQ+ community.
Types of Pronouns
According the Trevor Project, Although 75% of youth use either he/him or she/her exclusively, 25% of LGBTQ youth use they/them exclusively, a combination of he/him, she/her, or they/them, or neopronouns such as ze/zir or fae/faer.
The organization Pronouny has a robust set of resources including this comprehensive list of pronouns.
How to Share Pronouns
When you add your pronouns to your email signature and or social media accounts and even on your virtual technology platform right behind your name, it shows people who are different from you that you understand, are open to learning, and that you empathize. You may not fully understand the nuances of pronouns, but you’re not putting the full burden of people that could potentially be misgendered or identify as gender non-binary to have to shoulder the challenges associated with different gender identities.
Inclusive leaders are familiar with some key gender identity vocabulary words. For example, cisgender simply means you identify as the same gender of which you were assigned at birth. Gender non-binary means that someone doesn’t exclusively identify as male or female. They may use the pronouns they or them. This is perfectly appropriate and grammatically correct.
Consider this example of a communication welcoming pronoun sharing at your organization or with your team.
We are committed to upholding a workplace that welcomes authenticity, practices acceptance for what makes each of us different, and is open to learning and growing.
To foster further belonging and to empower you to bring your authentic self to work, we welcome the use of gender pronouns in our email signatures. Not only will this small change help eliminate misgendering, but it also displays our allyship and respect for gender identity.
Adding gender pronouns to your email signature is not a requirement but a personal choice.
∙ she, her, hers, herself
∙ he, him, his, himself
∙ they, them, theirs, themselves
∙ ze, hir/zir, hirs/zirs, hirself/zirself
Other great resources to learn more:
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