WHAT IS A GENDER PRONOUN?
In English, gender pronouns are gender identifiers for the third-person singular. In the past, gender pronouns were separated into masculine (he/him/his) and feminine (she/her/hers). This separation of masculine and feminine is called gender binary and only recognizes men and women. Many people identify outside of the gender binary. Gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them or xe/xer/xers allow individuals to use pronouns they feel fit with their identities.
WHY DO PRONOUNS MATTER?
Pronouns, like personal names, are connected to a person's identity. Just as we can show respect by calling others by their correct name(s), we can show respect by using the correct pronouns. Using the wrong pronoun can make a person feel uncomfortable and possibly invalidated or alienated.
A person’s name or physical appearance do not necessarily indicate their gender so we should not make gender assumptions based on these. Names are often culturally linked and many names are used for different genders; not every name is specifically male or female. It can be challenging to determine a person's gender from their name alone. And some people do not identify with a binary gender.
At CTI, like many other places, there are people from a variety of backgrounds and locations. Using correct pronouns can help to create a respectful and inclusive community.
HOW DO I TALK TO OTHERS ABOUT PRONOUNS?
We interact with many people every day, and not all may agree with our choice to share pronouns. Below is suggested language that you can use for specific situations where the topic may come up in conversation.
Comment: I don't agree with you sharing your pronouns. It just isn't necessary.
Potential response: I understand where you are coming from, but to me pronoun visibility really is necessary. Many people have a name and gender that correspond with traditional pronoun usage; however, this is not the case for all. Some of our staff have continually been referred to by the wrong pronoun, which makes them feel disrespected. Rather than just asking those individuals to share their pronouns, we can be inclusive and all embrace this practice. It removes any ambiguity and the potential to hurt. This is why it is important to me.
Comment: I've noticed that you are including pronouns in your signature line. Why is that?
Potential response: Thanks for noticing the pronouns in my signature line! Many places give space for community members to share their pronouns verbally, and in legal records and other documents. I am trying to initiate a similar practice here at CTI. The pronouns in my signature line are meant to raise awareness of gender identities. Sharing my pronouns can help others feel comfortable sharing their pronouns as well. CTI is a diverse workplace, so there are many opportunities to inadvertently use the wrong pronoun. It is important that we make efforts to show respect to each other; this is one way to do so.
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO SHARE MY GENDER PRONOUNS WITH OTHERS?
There are many reasons why people may choose not to share their gender pronouns.
they do not identify with any of the current pronouns in use
sharing their pronouns is an unnecessary act for them to perform
they are uncomfortable revealing their gender pronouns in a specific context
fear of repercussions
Whatever the reasoning behind the choice not to identify your gender pronouns, the point is that you have the choice. The goal is to provide people with the opportunity to share their gender pronouns if they choose.
Below is a table of both gendered and gender-neutral pronouns, along with their pronunciations. It is important to note, though, that some people do not subscribe to any pronoun and may like to be referred to by name only. This is also not an exhaustive list.