You probably know what pronouns are, we all use them every single day. She, he, they, xe… but many of us don’t understand why they are so important.
Pronouns are how you refer to someone when you aren’t using their name; they’re one of the ways we choose to portray our identities, and the way many of us express our gender. But they are most commonly used by the LGBTQIA+ community and it’s vital that this changes. It can be alienating for the community, which is why we need to normalise everyone introducing them with the same importance as their name. We all have pronouns.
They don’t always align with our gender identities, which is why it’s always best to ask someone. It’s easy to introduce your pronouns when you introduce yourself; ‘Hi my name is… and my pronouns are…’ and it’s also very easy to ask someone what theirs are!
So why do most of us fail to do this?
It’s just normalised as part of culture to assume someone’s pronouns from the way they look. Someone who is feminine presenting is very often assumed to use the pronouns ‘She/Her’, but this isn’t always the case and it’s crucial that we start to recognise this. Assuming someone’s pronouns can be harmful, even if we don’t mean it to be. Particularly for someone who isn’t cisgender (their birth assigned sex aligning with their gender) or someone who dresses in a way that isn’t conventional to their gender, it could cause gender dysphoria.
According to Stonewall, here’s 5 ways to step up:
- When you introduce yourself, also introduce your pronoun: This can remind people it may not always be obvious what pronoun someone uses.
- Put your pronouns in your email signature and/or social media profile.
- Try to avoid addressing groups or people with gendered language, e.g., instead of using ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, use the word ‘everyone’ to address a group.
- If you’re not sure what someone’s pronouns are, ask them.
- If you accidentally misgender someone, just apologise to them and then move on using their correct pronoun.
We all make mistakes, and we are only human! Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up, but like Stonewall say, apologise and move on. If you want to know more or are just generally interested in educating yourself (which is great!) then there are tons of resources on the internet you can use!
- Kia Wing, She/They.
As a union, we have adopted a voluntary initiative off the back of this student led campaign to help non-binary and transgender colleagues and peers feel more widely accepted and supported. You may notice across the Students' Union and University emails that we are now including our pronouns as part of our email signatures.