The English language is inherently fluid in the way we speak about others. So why is it that pronouns have taken the spotlight in the strive for gender diversity and equity?
First and foremost, to use someone’s correct pronouns is a sign of respect. Though it’s a newer device, the assumption of someone’s pronouns can be harmful - just because someone presents their gender a specific way, doesn’t mean that you should assume anyone’s pronouns. Equally, if someone asks you your pronouns and you think it’s strange that they wouldn’t assume based on how you present - try taking gender out of the equation.
We can break it down even further...just because someone is wearing a dress, doesn’t mean they use she/her pronouns. We connect dresses to an idea of women and femininity but being feminine isn’t exclusively for women, just as masculinity isn’t just for men! The dress does not make the person, but the pronouns do! So, the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is actually wildly appropriate here, and you can use it as a tool to remind yourself to break gender normative thinking patterns!
Social platforms across the world are now making it easier and easier to help display our personal pronouns in easily accessible ways! For example, Instagram has now made this option a part of their Profile Settings, allowing folks online to be able to display their pronouns. This is both a personal touch and a signal to trans folks across the platform that you are here, in solidarity, with them. Humi is also offering a similar addition - you can now add your pronouns to your Humi profile, so no one has to assume anything! While this may seem obvious for you, imagine those who it’s not as obvious for - this creates safer and more equitable spaces for those who don’t always have an outlet or the confidence to explain it.
Some recaps for you:
- Don’t assume anyone’s pronouns, regardless of how they choose to present: Women don’t owe you femininity, men don’t owe you masculinity and non-binary folks don’t owe you androgyny!
- Asking someone’s pronouns is a sign of respect!
- Instagram and Humi alike are adopting these same practices to signal to people of the trans community that there are easy ways to create safer spaces!
A SHORT GUIDE TO PRONOUNS:
He/Him/His - used for AMAB (assigned male at birth) and male presenting folks
She/Her/Hers - used for AFAB (assigned female at birth) and female presenting folks
They/Them - used for gender non-conforming and non-binary folks
Ze/Zie/Hir - used for gender non-conforming and non-binary folks
These are some of the more popularly used pronouns, but there are more! Check out this very cool Gender Pronouns article that explains how to use them in a sentence and their history in the English language from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:
If you still feel a little confused about why pronouns are important to creating a more equitable space at Collective Arts, here are some additional resources to read to hopefully help you further understand:
Culture Amp: “Sharing Gender Pronouns at Work Matters”
Seventeen, “Why Gender Pronouns Matter”
LGBT Life Center: “Understanding Pronouns”