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Why we should all start using pronouns

Claire Mullaly · 26 February 2020

Pronouns

Have you seen somebody with he/him, she/her or they/them on their email signature or their social media bio recently?

These are a basic set of pronouns and it is becoming more and more common for people to use them, and you don’t have to be LGBT+ to start.

Why do people add pronouns?

I’m cisgender, which means I identify with the sex assigned to me at birth.

I use the pronouns she/her to help normalise discussions about gender, especially for the trans and non-binary communities.

So, what’s the difference between sex and gender?

Put simply, sex is your physical body or your biology. Gender identity is who you are as a person, socially, emotionally and psychologically.

Who are the trans and non-binary community?

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.

Non-binary is a term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

Non-binary people use they/them to reflect where they are on the gender spectrum.

Using your pronouns in signatures and social media biographies tells everyone that you are not going to assume their gender.

It is an important move towards real inclusivity in the workplace and wider society. It creates a healthier, safe space so everyone can bring their ‘whole self’ to work and be respected for it.

A second benefit in using pronouns is that it helps avoid getting someone’s gender wrong.

A final benefit is to support your trans and non-binary workmates and friends by reducing some of the burden on them to continuously explain their identity.

We must learn how to refer to people in whatever way they see themselves and choose to be seen.

Prospect member Binni Brynolf

Prospect member Binni Brynolf, who works as a digital resources librarian and uses pronouns they/them told me;

“If everyone makes it a habit to include their pronouns in email signatures and social media bios, then it becomes easier for me, a non-binary person, to let people know my pronouns without any fuss.

“I won’t need to feel like an exception asking for special treatment, but rather I’ll feel accepted and understood.”

What can you do?

Using pronouns is a key element of being an LGBT+ ally and is something that is effortless to do, but means the world to others.

Firstly, change your signatures on emails and your social media bios. This has the practical benefit of making clear how you would like to be referred to, while also signalling to others that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns.

Finally start getting ready for International Pronouns Day which is the third Wednesday in October, this year October 21st.

Last year Dublin City University Student Union gave out badges with phrases such as; ‘Ask Me My Pronouns’ or ‘My Pronouns Are He/Him’ and ‘My Pronouns Are They/Them’ to start to normalise gender discussions and create a safe, welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone.

All individuals, workplaces and organisations can implement positive change, so let’s do it.

Claire is a digital rep for Prospect Scotland and Northern Ireland and a member of Prospect’s equal opportunities advisory committee and the Trades Union Congress LGBT+ committee. This is a ‘Your Shout’ opinion piece that first appeared in our member magazine ‘Profile’.

Join our LGBT+ network here, which is open to all members of the union.