Discussions about LGBTQA+ terms have been surging in pop culture and media in recent years. If you’re still learning about the community, you’ve come to the right place. This gender pronouns guide will walk you through what pronouns are, how to use them, and why they are important.
Keep reading for our inclusive guide on gender pronouns and why they matter.
Gender pronouns are the words we use to refer to ourselves and others in place of a proper noun/name. “Preferred” gender pronouns are the pronouns a person identifies with. The three most common ones are she, he, and they.
He/him pronouns may be used by someone identifying as male, gender fluid, or nonbinary. The same applies to she/her pronouns for those who identify as female or otherwise. They/them pronouns are typically used by nonbinary individuals.
Whether you realized it or not, “they” has been used as a singular pronoun for hundreds of years. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, they has been a singular pronoun since at least 1375.
You likely already use the singular they in your everyday speech; if you don’t know the gender of a person, you might say, “Someone forgot their car keys at the front desk.”
This is just one example of how pronouns are used. Other gender pronouns, called neopronouns are as follows:
Neo, or “new” pronouns, are a way to refer to someone in a gender-neutral way. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Xe/xem/xeir (Xe called yesterday. I’m staying with xem. That’s xeir jacket.)
- Ze/zir/zirs (Ze finished zir book. It’s zirs time to do the dishes.)
- Ey/em/eirs (Ey forgot eir notebook. I’m sure that’s eirs.)
How to Use Gender Pronouns
First of all, don’t assume someone’s pronouns just by looking at them. You can’t always know by appearances. If it’s safe to do so, ask the person what they go by.
Simply saying, “What are your pronouns?” is a simple and polite way to approach the subject. A response like, “I’m [NAME]. He/him pronouns.” is perfectly acceptable to start off a conversation.
Use discretion and gauge the situation you are in. Learning what pronouns someone is using is not only a way to respect the person you’re talking to, but it can also be a matter of safety. Using the wrong pronouns in front of other people could “out” them.
If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun for someone, don’t draw attention to yourself. Apologize, use the correct pronoun, and carry on. Here’s an example of: “He, sorry, Ze took zir dog on a walk.“
Another easy and discrete way of using gender pronouns is including them in your email signature, nametag, or when you introduce yourself. Even if you are cisgender, this is still a good practice as it normalizes talking about pronouns for everyone.
Do Pronouns Equal Gender?
No, pronouns are a way to refer to someone without using their name. However, a single set of pronouns isn’t used by only one gender. People outside of the gender binary sometimes use multiple different pronouns.
Trans and gender non-conforming people have a wide range of ways to express themselves. Check out this link for more LGBTQA+ info.
Becoming a Better Ally Made Simple
Gender pronouns are the terms we use in place of a person’s name, like he, she, or they. Neopronouns are a new part of the English language, but it’s easy to adopt them into your speech with practice. It’s important to normalize the use of gender pronouns in everyday conversations for everyone in the LGBTQA+ community and out.
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