Understanding Gender Pronouns and Their Importance
Gender pronouns are third-person pronouns that are used in the English language to refer to people, or something a person possesses, without using their names. Common binary gender examples include he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.
People often make assumptions about another person’s gender based upon their physical appearance and/or name. However, making assumptions about someone’s gender based on physical appearance can be potentially harmful and send the message that people must look a certain way to be a certain gender. Because, gender is socially constructed and time sensitive there is no “right or wrong” way to express gender.
Gendered language can have an especially large impact on the lives of trans, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary people. Using the wrong gender pronouns is one form of misgendering. This can cause feelings of disrespect, hurt, invalidation, alienation, dysphoria, and feeling unsafe. Additionally, making assumptions about a person’s gender and/or intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns can prevent people from experiencing a genuine sense of belonging within our BGSU community. It is important to use gender inclusive language and correct gender pronouns to help all members of the university community feel affirmed and experience a genuine sense of belonging.
BGSU Cares About Gender Pronouns
BGSU Diversity and Belonging Statement
Bowling Green State University values diversity as essential to improving the human condition. Diversity and inclusion immeasurably enriches all that we do to engage, understand, and affirm individuals. Within our community, the diversity of identities and life experiences determines how we perceive and contribute to society. We acknowledge that diversity has not always been understood or embraced in our society, yet, at BGSU, we will strive to understand and embrace diversity by breaking down barriers to meaningful participation to ensure that individuals are treated with dignity. As a community, we commit to advance this culture through a comprehensive strategy and diversity plan that focuses on the recruitment, retention, and success of a diverse student body, faculty, staff, and administration.
As a public university for the public good, our bedrock commitment to diversity and belonging requires mutual respect, understanding, and valuing individuals to facilitate a more diverse and inclusive environment so all can belong.
Connection to Gender Pronouns
As our Diversity and Belonging Statement demonstrates, BGSU embraces diversity and ensures that individuals are treated with dignity. Gender pronouns can be a powerful tool in validating and affirming one’s gender identity. Gender inclusive language and correct gender pronouns are important components of making BGSU a community of respect, belonging, safety, and support that treats all individuals with dignity and respect.
Using and Asking for Gender Pronouns
We must ask and check in with others about gender pronouns. If you already know someone’s correct pronouns, be sure to use them. Some common gender pronouns that you may hear are he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, and ze/hir/hirs. It is important to note that additional pronouns are in use for members of our community, while some prefer to not use pronouns at all. If you are unfamiliar with some of these pronouns, try practicing them with a close friend or colleague. Practice makes perfect!
If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, here are some tips on how to ask:
- What pronouns are your pronouns in use?
- Are there pronouns you would like me to use when referring to you?
- How would you like to be addressed?
- Demonstrate your own pronouns as an example before asking. “I use she/her/hers pronouns. If you are comfortable, please share what pronouns you would like me to use when referring to you in class.”
- Remember, not everyone will be comfortable sharing their pronouns and people’s pronouns can change so check in regularly!
- Lastly, know that requiring someone to share pronouns could be outing some folx. Be cautious about this when doing introductions
Learning from Mistakes
Sometimes we might use incorrect pronouns for someone or make an assumption about someone’s pronouns. When this happens, correct yourself by using the appropriate pronoun and apologize to the person. Do not belabor the point and make the situation worse by focusing on the mistake, especially if you are in space with others. Remember to continue to practice in private.
Demonstrating Your Commitment to Gender Pronouns
Everyone in our BGSU community can play a part in making BGSU a welcoming environment for people from all gender backgrounds by using correct gender pronouns and gender inclusive language. Here are some tips on how to demonstrate your commitment:
- In meetings, ask everyone to introduce themselves with their gender pronouns and preferred names if they are comfortable doing so. If individuals choose to not share their pronouns, use only their name.
- Include your pronouns in your email signature
- Put your pronouns in your Canvas account (Click for instructions to learn how!)
- Prior to the first class meeting, reach out to students and ask them to verify the name on your roster and ask for their gender pronouns.
- Introduce yourself in meetings and class with your gender pronouns
- Explain to students and other employees why using correct gender pronouns and gender inclusive language is important
- List your pronouns on your nameplate or residence hall door if you’re comfortable doing so
- Politely correct someone if they use incorrect pronouns for you or someone else in your presence
- Help others learn about gender pronouns
- Continue to educate yourself on this important topic
More Information and Resources
- Explore online resources like https://www.mypronouns.org/
- Ask for a presenter from the Division of Diversity and Belonging to host a workshop or presentation for your staff or class on gender pronouns and inclusive language
- Watch some videos online like Why Gender Pronouns Matter and Sharing Your Pronouns
Please note: information for this website was adapted from mypronouns.org, Duke University, and Washington University in St. Louis.