Should you declare your pronouns?
It is becoming common practice in certain circles to put your pronouns (she/he/they/zey, etc) in emails and social media bios as well as have meetings start with, “Hi, my name is Kristin and my pronouns are . . .”
But why do it?
It normalizes discussion about gender and language.
It’s an important move towards inclusivity because, even if you are cisgender (identifying with your gender; often reflecting in dress, manner, and/or appearance), you are showing that you are open to those who are not. It’s a gentle way of declaring a safe space for people to express themselves.
It also avoids misgendering, which can be incredibly embarrassing for all parties. By normalizing bringing it up front, you can casually ask in conversation to those who do not present traditionally cisgendered, “May I ask what your pronouns are?” It’s not a subject of polite, inclusive language.
Increasingly, I am seeing more and more settings where the declaration of pronouns is forced — in Zoom meetings and in work settings on name plates or in email profiles. Forcing someone to declare a label is not inclusive practice. If you are a leader of a meeting that would like to include it, you can frame introductions this way: “Could we all go around and say our name, and if you are comfortable, your pronouns?” Or, you can opt not to ask altogether and declare them yourself as a matter of practice. The choice is up to you.
But read the room, too. Not everyone’s going to appreciate the effort when you declare your pronouns in a meeting — not because they are bigots, but because this is a relatively new normalizing practice that they do not understand. Meetings are not always a great place to try this out.
Okay, so let’s get to the pronouns themselves:
- He and her are pretty standard, no explanation needed
- They: a pluralization like “ya’ll” in Southern or Ustedes in Spanish. We have normalized our verbal language to pluralize and I know I used it as a tactic in papers to avoid “he or her” or the dreaded “(s)he.” Can be used by cisgender individuals to indicate solidarity with others, acceptance that the pluralization works for them, or could indicate a non-binary or a-gender use (someone who identifies with neither gender)
- Now it gets very complicated. As language evolves, options can abound and there are some alternate pronouns that you may run across — making the effort shows you care. Not everyone agrees with what the right thing to do is, just as there is also a debate about use of Hispanic, Latina/o, Latinx, and Latine). If you run across a ze or a fae or a xe, you’ve encountered someone who identifies that way.
Congratulations, the world is complex! If you show patience, understanding, and inclusion, the world can also be a little warmer and brighter for you and others.
(Hi, btw, I’m Kristin and my pronouns are “she/they.”)