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Understanding pronouns: a Pride guide to using inclusive language

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 16:28:51-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Every person has different pronouns, and 7 Eyewitness News is working to help you understand pronouns, with a Pride guide on how to use inclusive language.

If you have questions on how to use pronouns correctly, the UW-Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center and GLSEN through GLYS WNY have some answers to some frequently asked questions.

Firstly, what is a gender pronoun?: A gender pronoun is the pronoun that a person uses for themself.

Why is it important to respect someone's pronouns?: You can never tell what someone's pronouns are just by looking at them. The resource center says the best way to show respect for someone's gender identity is by asking and using their correct identity. Using someone's incorrect pronoun might make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (often all of the above).

What are commonly used pronouns?: The most common pronouns are she/her/hers and he/him/his, but there are some gender-neutral pronouns that are commonly used.

Common gender-neutral pronouns include the following

  • They/them/theirs (Shea ate their food because they were hungry.) This is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun and it can be used in the singular.
  • Ze/hir/hir (Tyler ate hir food because ze was hungry.) Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they. Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.
  • Just my name please! (Ash ate Ash’s food because Ash was hungry) Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, using their name as a pronoun instead.

Note: you should never refer to someone an 'it' or 'he-she' as those are offensive slurs.

How do you ask someone about their pronouns?: You can try by asking, 'What pronouns do you use?' or 'Can you remind me what pronouns you use?' It might be awkward, but it is better than hurting someone by using an incorrect pronoun.

What happens if you make a mistake?: It's important to know that it is okay to make mistakes. There are ways you can apologize to someone for making a mistake, saying 'sorry, I meant (insert pronoun).' You could also apologize privately to the person and move on. It's important to note that you should avoid expressing how bad you feel about messing up because it might make the person who you used an incorrect pronoun on uncomfortable.

Why is focusing on pronouns important?: Focusing on pronouns is important because it allows everyone to self-identify, instead of you assuming someone’s identity or which pronouns they use. This will also help to create a more inclusive environment.

How is this making a more inclusive environment?: By providing an opportunity for people to share their pronouns, you’re showing that you’re not assuming that their gender identity is based on their appearance.

What are some ways you can make your support more visible?

  • Include “pronoun:” under “name:” in name tags and introductions in groups as an opportunity for participants to make their pronouns visible. At the beginning of the semester, educators can call out students by their last name instead of their first name in case a student has not been able to change their name in the Student Information System or legally. Let students know that after class they can let you know what name they use if it is different than what is on the roster.
  • At the beginning of the semester, educators can pass out 3x5 note cards to students and ask them to add their name, pronouns, and whatever information you feel is necessary to know about the student that they might not want to share out loud.
  • Have pronouns be added to all email signatures, and link the word “pronouns” to this guide or another reference for people who are new to this practice:
    • Sincerely,Mx. MarvelPronouns: They, Them, Theirs

You can always find more information by visiting GLYS WNY's website by clicking here.