Pronouns

Pronouns are how you refer to someone if you are not using their name. For example: "Nadia aced her exam." Pronouns are a way we portray our identities, so when someone ask you to use particular pronouns, they’re asking for you to respect their identity. If someone tells you their pronouns, use them! If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, don’t assume. Until you learn someone’s pronouns, use their name or gender-neutral pronouns, like “they.”

When someone refers to another person using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, that can lead to that person feeling disrespected and can cause dysphoria, exclusion, and/or alienation. It is never safe to assume someone’s gender and living a life where people will naturally assume the correct pronouns for you is a privilege that not everyone experiences. Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression but can also be considered an act of violence. Just like with someone’s name, being mindful of – and using – correct pronouns is a way to honor and respect someone’s identity, and allows us to connect with others on a more personal level.

Examples

she/her/hers
She is calling.
Her family is nice.
That car is hers.

he/him/his
He is calling.
His family is nice.
That car is his.

they/them/theirs
They are calling.
Their family is nice.
That car is theirs.

ze/zir/zirs
Ze is calling.
Zir family is nice.
That car is zirs.

Note: There are many more than these four pronouns out in the world. These are simply the most common in the US.

If you don't know a person's pronouns

Sometimes people just don’t want to share their pronouns and that’s fine. Usually it’s safe to use they/them/theirs or person’s name unless they tell you otherwise.

Try to introduce yourself with your own pronouns so that everyone you meet knows that you’re a safe person and that you won’t assume anyone’s pronouns. It also prompts them to provide pronouns without it being awkward. (Ex. "Hello, my name is Rami and I use they/them pronouns.")

You can ask that person, as long as you do so politely (i.e. “Hey, what are your pronouns?”), but it is generally preferred that people come out with their own pronouns on their own terms. Knowing a person’s pronouns is not the most important thing in the world but respecting a person is, so try not to demand something of someone when they’re not comfortable giving it.