What Are Gender Pronouns and Why Are They Important?

Jun 15, 2022

What are pronouns?

A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (like I or you) or someone or something that is being talked about (like she, I, them, and this). Gender pronouns (like he, hers, and them) specifically refer to people that you are talking about.

What is a “Gender Pronoun”?

A “gender pronoun” is the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves. Gender Pronouns are the pronouns that we use to refer to people in sentences and conversations.

What are some examples of Gender Pronouns?

Gender pronouns can look like and are not limited to:

he/him/his (masculine pronouns)

she/her/hers (feminine pronouns)

they/them/theirs (neutral pronouns)

Here are examples of Gender Pronouns in use.

(She, Her, Hers)

Example: “Alex ate her food because she was hungry.”

(They, them, theirs)

Example: “Alex ate their food because they were hungry.”

Note: This is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun…. And yes, it can in fact be used in the singular. You can use this pronoun as a neutral identifier if you are unsure what pronoun someone uses.

(Just my name please)

Example: “Alex ate Alex’s food because Alex was hungry.”

Note: Some people do not use pronouns at all, they prefer using their name as a pronoun instead!

Why is it important to respect people’s Gender Pronouns?

You can’t always know what someone’s gender pronoun is by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show respect for their gender identity.

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of the above.)

While many people use the wrong pronoun by mistake, sometimes people use the wrong pronoun intentionally to hurt or disrespect people. Repeatedly being misgendered can be a source of great distress.

How Do You Ask Someone About Their Pronouns?

Asking an individual for their gender pronouns may feel awkward or new at first, but it can quickly become routine. You can try asking,

  • “What are your gender pronouns?”
  • “Which pronouns do you use?”
  • “Can you remind me which pronouns you use for yourself?”

Asking people about their gender pronouns has become commonplace in the LGBTQ+ and safe-space communities. 

Asking someone about their gender pronouns can look like but is not limited to:

“What gender pronouns should I use to refer to you?”

“What are your gender pronouns?”

“I don’t want to make any assumptions, so what gender pronouns do you use?”

“How should I refer to you in conversations?”

What Do I Do If I Called Someone By The Wrong Pronoun?

People make mistakes and it can be a bit difficult to adjust to using someone’s correct gender pronouns. If you accidentally misgender someone (calling them by the wrong gender pronouns/gender) just say sorry and continue the conversation using the correct pronoun. 

Here’s what it looks like:

“Alex is going on Tour. She – sorry, they said they are really excited for this year’s lineup.”

In social situations, it is best to simply say “sorry” and continue the conversation using the correct pronouns. Many people find it uncomfortable when people give a long apology for misgendering them and it could also potentially out them.

What If I Want to Change My Gender Pronouns?

Gender pronouns are not set in stone. As people step into who they are, their pronouns can change, and that’s perfectly okay. You have the right to change your gender pronouns to match who you are and your gender identity!

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