What are pronouns? How are they used?
Pronouns take the place of nouns in sentences. We often use pronouns to replace people’s names when we speak or write about them. In English, we have first, second (I and you, respectively) and third-person pronouns. Though there are a variety of third-person pronouns people may choose to use, and they can be used in any combination, he/him/his, she/her/hers, and the singular they/them/theirs are the most common options.
Why are pronouns important?
In English, third-person singular pronouns imply gender. For example, the phrase "Maria walked her dog" implies that Maria identifies as a woman. We frequently make assumptions about someone’s pronouns and gender identity based on their name and/or their appearance, but these assumptions can be wrong. Misgendering someone — or referring to a person using language that does not reflect their gender identity — can cause emotional harm.
Please note: Pronouns are not strictly connected to gender identity. Someone who identifies as a man may use they/them pronouns, etc.
How do I share my pronouns?
There are many ways to share your pronouns. You can include them when you introduce yourself; you can put them in email signatures or on name tags; you can wear pronoun stickers or buttons.
- Introduction: "My name is _________, and my pronouns are _____, _____, _____." or "My name is John Doe, and my pronouns are they, them, theirs."
- Email Signature and Name Tags: Your Name (___/___), Maria Doe (she/they), Jamie Doe (she/her)
How do I ask what pronouns someone uses?
Asking "What pronouns do you use?" is an appropriate way to ask someone about their pronouns. In group settings, you may also encourage people to share their pronouns as they introduce themselves.
Caution: Forcing, requiring, or pressuring people to share their pronouns in any way is inappropriate, as it may put transgender or gender nonconforming people in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation. To avoid such a situation, make it clear that it is completely appropriate for someone to leave out their pronouns in their introduction. The goal is to create an inclusive environment that gives people the space to share their pronouns on their own terms.
What if I refer to someone using the wrong pronouns?
Mistakes happen! If you accidentally misgender someone, simply correct yourself and move on. Example: "Sorry, I meant _____."
However, misgendering someone intentionally and repeatedly is a form of gender discrimination that goes against University Policy 501.2: Regulation Regarding Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Transgender Status.