By Nick Chmura
Gender Pronouns or Prefered Gender Pronouns(PGPs) are “the pronouns that a person chooses to use for themself.” In the past, we’ve relied on using she/her/hers or he/him/his. For example, the noun Jackie in “Jackie went to the store,” can be replaced with the gender pronoun He, as in “He went to the store.”
But as we learn more about gender, we better understand that not everyone fits neatly into one of these two groups. This is why being aware of preferred gender pronouns is important in order to be respectful and supportive of all identities. “Pronouns are important to us because they validate our identity and show us basic respect and dignity,” says Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) co-founder Eli Erlick. Addressing others using their pronouns is one way to show support and respect.
Using the Right Pronouns
How we interpret someone’s appearance can be different than how they see their own identity. Someone who may appear more masculine may choose to use she/her/hers. A person may look like someone who would use the pronouns he/him/his but prefer to go by non-binary gender pronouns like they/them/theirs.
But how do you know what pronouns to use? This infographic, created by Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER), shows examples of how PGP’s may be used.
People who use non-binary gender pronouns (like they/them/theirs) may communicate their pronouns to you in different ways. Some may not feel safe to share it right away while others may be more open and upfront about their pronouns. Some encourage people to ask. “You can always ask someone what their pronouns are. It’s not rude to ask and it should become a habit to ask everyone. You can’t know what someone’s pronouns are until they tell you,” says Erlick.
This may be your first time reading about gender pronouns or preferred gender pronouns in this way. This could all feel a bit foreign, and that’s okay. We all deserve to be treated respectfully. There are many reasons why a person may prefer they/them/their pronouns; it’s important to respect their wishes to be identified that way.
I recommend being open to it and continuing to educate yourself. TSER has a wealth of information as does the Trevor Project. For learning about different identities, I’ve found the Gender Unicorn to be informative.