WHY PRONOUNS ARE IMPORTANT
What are gender pronouns?
Pronouns are how you refer to someone if you are not using their name. They are linguistic tools that we use to refer to people. Some commonly used pronouns are:
She / her / hers
He / him / his
They / them / theirs
(Just use my name, please!)
This is not an exhaustive list of all pronouns, and language does evolve over time. If you ask someone’s pronoun and you have not heard it previously, it is not insulting to ask for the spelling and different conjugations. Just let the person know you are asking to make sure their pronouns are respected.
Why are pronouns important?
If a person has never had to worry about which pronoun others use for them, gender pronouns might not seem important. For many, their singular and visible gender identity is a privilege. Not everybody has this privilege. Consistently using someone’s correct pronouns shows respect for that individual’s gender identity. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, that person may feel dismissed, alienated, or unwelcome.
Pronouns are a matter of self-determination. We can’t assume someone’s gender identity based on appearances.
Knowing and using someone’s gender pronouns is a positive way to support the people you work with.
How do you ask someone about their gender pronouns?
As part of an introduction, you can say “Tell us your name, your role, and if you’re comfortable, your gender pronoun.” You might hear gender-neutral pronouns like “they, them, theirs” – or some people prefer that you simply use their name. In a one-on-one conversation, the best way to ask is with a straightforward: “What are your gender pronouns?” or “Can you remind me of which pronouns you like for yourself?”
Why are pronouns included in your email signatures?
CASA – Voices for Children is committed to cultivating a culture of respect and inclusion. Including pronouns in our email signatures is one small step towards fostering inclusivity in our community. It is important that all of the children we advocate for, the service providers we work alongside, and the volunteers that advocate for our children know our preferred pronouns, and feel comfortable sharing their preferred pronouns with us. Actively sharing our pronouns is just one step we are taking towards celebrating diversity and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.
What if I make a mistake?
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and that’s okay! Simply apologize, correct yourself, and move on. Do not belabor the mistake, but use the opportunity to show your commitment to using the correct pronouns going forward.
What if I notice others misgendering someone?
Using someone's preferred pronouns is an essential part of creating an inclusive culture, and is just as important when the person you are referencing is not in the room as it is when they are present. If you notice others misgendering someone, politely correct them, just as you would if they called someone by the wrong name. This article from MyPronouns.org has some great examples of how to approach this scenario in a conversation.
Where can I find more information on pronouns and LGBTQ+ resources?
The Human Rights Campaign’s All Children – All Families initiative has released a “Pronouns 101” resource focusing on pronouns and how they’re related to gender identity. This resource is an excellent summary to share with those who would like to learn more about pronouns, or anyone working with transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.
The CDC’s LGBT Youth Resources webpage also provides an extensive list of resources on pronouns, gender identity, and ways to support and affirm LGBTQ+ youth.