Pronouns are words we frequently use to refer to people in third person. In English and some other languages, third-person pronouns are gendered. For example, “She set up this meeting,” or “They brought a projector.”
Why are we sharing pronouns here?
Sharing our pronouns is part of creating a culture in which we don’t make assumptions. There is no way someone has to look, sound or act to be a certain gender or use a certain set of pronouns. As a result, we can’t assume what pronouns someone uses just by meeting them or hearing their name. And this is why – even if you are cisgender (you identify with the sex you were assigned at birth) – it is important to share your pronouns.
Why does this matter?
If you’re not transgender or gender nonconforming, you might not have thought about what it feels like to have your identity incorrectly assumed and invalidated daily. Although you may not mean any harm when you use the wrong pronouns for someone, it can still have this impact. It sends the message that people have to look, sound or act a certain way to be a certain gender, and that you are not seeing someone as their actual self.
What should I do?
Share your pronouns in introductions and on written materials, and ask other people what theirs are. Use the correct pronouns for someone whether they are in the room or not, and help other people around you to do the same. You can say, “You may not have known this, but Lan actually uses they/them pronouns.” If you use an incorrect pronoun for someone, correct yourself, apologize briefly and move on. Don't belabor it; just say, “She – sorry, I mean he – wrote up the agenda.”
What are some examples of pronouns?
- They/them/theirs (for a singular person, i.e., “Lan forgot their phone”).
- Ze/hir/hirs (pronounced “zee/here/heres”).
- A name instead of pronouns (i.e., “Jen left Jen’s computer at work”).
- Using multiple sets of pronouns (i.e. they/them theirs and she/her/hers). Many people use multiple sets of pronouns, which means either is fine to refer to them. You’re welcome to ask them if they have a preference or if they want you to actively switch between both.
- And many more. If you don’t know how to pronounce or use a set of pronouns, you can look them up.
Where can I go for more resources?
City of Minneapolis employees can contact your HR Business Partner to request the Gender Inclusivity 101 Training for your department.