“Everything you wanted to know about pronouns but were afraid to ask” – nice Guardian article explaining why more and more companies, organisations, events, and social networks support the ability for people to nominate their pronouns. I actually covered this very briefly on an internal work meeting recently. It was prompted by someone on our team being asked for their pronouns by a tech conference, and them not understanding that it meant. I think it’s perhaps especially confusing for non-native English speakers (some languages don’t have gendered pronouns at all), and for those folks in cultures where this issue just hasn’t penetrated much yet. I explained that it’s not a big deal – there are people whose gender might not be what you expect, so if you guess their pronouns, you might get it wrong. Our internal staff directory has a place now for people to specify their pronouns if they want to, and our default Powerpoint deck includes it on the title slide as well. At our big events, we also provide stickers or pins for people to put on their name tag to indicate pronouns.
Some folks think their own gender and pronouns are pretty obvious, so there’s no need to specify. And that’s fine; it’s not like there’s any mandate or expectation. But for me, it comes down to politeness and wanting to make people feel comfortable. If me listing my pronouns (she/her/hers, for the record) on the internal staff directory helps to normalise this a bit more – and make it that much less embarrassing for someone who does need to do it – then why wouldn’t I? It’s not like it’s a huge hardship for me. I’m certainly not going to get offended if someone chooses to state theirs.
Of course, there are those who claim the sticking point is grammar. They don’t like people identifying as “they/them,” and they erroneously claim the singular they/them is incorrect. Guess what? English uses singular they/them all the time and you probably don’t even notice. In fact, I used it all through this blog post. Didja catch that? 😃
Someone I know on Facebook made the following image, which might help if you still don’t get it…
Lastly, I know that some folks are very worried they’ll get someone’s pronouns wrong. Honestly, it’s okay. It’s like getting someone’s name wrong. Just correct yourself, apologise to them if they’re there, and try to do better next time. Honestly, it’s probably less of an issue than you think. When you’re talking to someone, you’ll most likely just use “you” rather than any gendered pronouns. It’s really only an issue when you’re talking about someone, or introducing them to a third person.