Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender, regardless of the sex assigned to them at birth or the sex designation on their legal documents.
What is a pronoun?
- A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun or noun phrase to refer to individuals.
- Pronouns can be in the first person singular (I, me) or plural (we, us); second person singular or plural (you); and the third person singular (she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/hir) or plural (they/them).
- Gendered pronouns specifically reference someone’s gender: he/him/his or she/her/hers.
- Non-gendered or nonbinary pronouns are not gender-specific and are most often used by people who identify outside of a gender binary: They/them or Ze/Zir.
- Other approaches to pronouns may include going simply by one’s name to avoid pronouns altogether.
Why are pronouns important?
- It is important to ask for pronouns because you should not assume how someone identifies their gender based on their appearance.
- This practice results in many individuals, especially transgendered and gender-nonconforming individuals, being misgendered, which may lead them to feel disrespected, marginalized and invisible.
How to be inclusive in using and respecting gender pronouns:
- Respecting someone’s self-identification means using the gender pronouns with which they identify.
- Normalize the process by indicating your gender pronouns in everyday use, such as including in or on your email signature, business cards, website profile, name tags and introductions.
- Ask individuals to provide their personal pronouns. It may feel awkward at first, but it is not as awkward as getting it wrong. Here are some examples:
- “What pronouns do you use?”
- “How would you like me to refer to you?”
- “Can you remind me what pronouns I should be using for you?”
What you can do:
- Recognize most people have pronouns, not just trans people. Asking for pronouns helps avoid misgendering anyone and shows alliance with trans people, as they are not the only ones who feel the need to share their pronouns.
- Ask people the pronouns they use for themselves whenever you ask people their name.
- Say “the pronouns someone uses” or “their personal pronouns” rather than “their preferred pronouns,” because the pronouns someone uses are not a preference.
- Remember not everyone feels comfortable sharing their pronoun.
- Remember tactics such as saying, “Hey everyone” instead of “hey guys.”
- Remember pronouns are not necessarily tied to someone’s gender identify.
Sex: Sex is a label — male, female or intersex — you are assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you are born with and your chromosomes. It does not necessarily match someone’s gender/gender identify.
Gender: A social and legal status and set of expectations from society about behaviors, characteristics and thoughts.
Gender identity: The internal perception of one’s gender and how someone labels themselves based on how much they align with what they understand their options for gender to be.
Cisgender: Someone whose gender matches their “assigned” sex at birth.
Transgender: A person whose gender is different from their “assigned” sex at birth.
Non-binary: A spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine — identities that are outside the gender binary of male and female.
Genderqueer: Similar to non-binary, some people regard queer as offensive, while others embrace it.
Genderfluid: Applies to a person whose gender identity changes over time or changes at different times.