Conscious Corner

A weekly series where we dissect social justice issues and go over essential terms to deepen our cultural awareness and understanding of dismantling white supremacy.

Issue 239 | August 21, 2020

Pronouns (noun): a word that takes the place of a name when referring to someone in conversation. 

Here are a few you might hear:

  • She/her/hers

  • He/him/his

  • They/them/theirs

  • Ze/hir/hir 

  • Just my name, please!

Using proper pronouns carries a weight that must be respectfully observed. Whether you realize it or not, the English language leads us to refer to individuals using pronouns when speaking about them. Oftentimes, when speaking of an individual in the third person, these pronouns have an implied gender — "she" referring to a girl/woman, or "he" referring to a boy/man. However, these associations are not always accurate. In fact, assuming someone’s pronouns can result in misgendering, which can send a potentially harmful message of disrespect and invalidation. By looking at gender through such a narrow lens, we not only erase the non-binary people who land in between, but trans people, too. 

When you address someone using their proper pronouns, you're not only acknowledging and respecting their identity, but you're also creating an inclusive environment. In an instance where you don’t know a person’s preferred pronouns, simply ask them. And once you do know what their pronouns are, be intentional and make a habit of referring to them by those pronouns even when they're not around. If you happen to slip up and use the wrong pronouns, many resources say to apologize right away and say “Sorry, I meant (insert pronoun)”. If you realize your mistake later on, you can apologize to them in private and be more conscious next time. While misgendering may seem like a small mistake, it's important to bear in mind that it can be offensive and oppressive.  

To foster an inclusive environment and ensure proper identification, consider adding your pronouns next to your name in Slack, your social profiles, and your email signature. Identity matters. Learn more about properly using pronouns with the resources below:

  • LinkedIn

© 2021 by Alison Gips.