Why We Share Our Pronouns
From our newest Ducks to our graduating flock, we’re always working to include and engage everyone. One way you can do this is to share your pronouns, or the words you want to be called when people aren’t using your name. Like names, pronouns are an important part of how we identify that deserves to be respected. And we recognize that assuming someone’s gender can be hurtful, especially to members of our community who are transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary.
As a community, we are all learning together about the importance of pronouns and being better allies to the trans community on campus. We hope that you’ll join us in striving for inclusion, justice and respect—because at the University of Oregon, we welcome all.
What are Pronouns?
Pronouns are linguistic tools that we use to refer to people, such as they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, and he/him/his. Some people call these “female/feminine” and “male/masculine” pronouns; however, it is best to avoid these labels because not everyone who uses “he” feels like a male or masculine. Someone’s pronouns inform us how to best refer and honor them. Pronouns do not indicate how someone identifies in their gender, as gender is personal, complex, and specific to the individual.
Affirm and Respect with Pronouns
Using someone’s pronouns shows that you respect the person you’re speaking to. Using someone’s chosen pronouns prevents disconnection or conflict in a relationship, and is affirming! A little effort or practice has a huge impact.
Use correct pronouns, and show accountability when mistakes are made.
- Asking for pronouns: You are welcome to ask what pronouns someone feels honored by to know how to refer to them. It is important not to put someone on the spot or unintentionally “out” someone, so consider asking privately or normalize the option of sharing pronouns. For example: “What pronouns do you use?”
- Sharing pronouns and names: Provide space regularly in groups, friends, or peers to share their pronouns without requiring sharing. Pronouns and names may change, so it is good practice to encourage sharing at the beginning of each class or at the start of an activity.
- Normalizing pronouns: Model sharing pronouns by introducing yourself with your pronouns regularly. For example: “My name is Taylor and I use she/her pronouns. I invite you to share your own pronouns during introductions, although you are not required to share.”
- Alternatives to pronouns: If you are unsure about someone’s pronouns someone’s name in place of pronouns or use they/them as a gender inclusive alternative. For example: “The student had said they completed the assigned homework”
Practice Thoughtful Apologies
Practice supportive apologies to prepare when mistakes are made. As we connect across differences, it is not a question of if we make a mistake, rather when we make a mistake. It is our responsibility as supportive allies to take responsibility for our mistakes and do better next time.
- Misgendering or misnaming: Using someone’s incorrect name or pronouns; or even using incorrect gendered words to refer to someone, such as guys, ladies, or sir, can be hurtful. In conversation if you make a mistake, correct yourself and move on. Refrain from explaining intent or over-apologizing for making a mistake as this creates a burden on the person harmed to provide comfort.
Remember to apologize, correct yourself, and move on: “Jamie said he discussed… sorry, they discussed… the class reading yesterday”. Make sure you practice to prevent future mistakes!
- Thoughtful apologies: To make a thoughtful apology, listen and validate the person who is hurt, claim your behavior, and apologize. Make this an opportunity to reflect and practice. If you find yourself making repeated mistakes it is up to you to commit to practicing to change your behavior.
Types of Pronouns
He, him, his: These gendered pronouns are often used to refer to men, but not always.
- Tyler said he is going to Carson for brunch.
- Robin told me that his favorite class was history.
- That pen belongs to him.
She, her, hers: These gendered pronouns are often used to refer to women, but not always.
- Terry called me to say that she is signing up for the LGBTQ Cohort.
- That bag is hers.
- We shouldn't go to the meeting without her.
They, them, theirs: A non-gendered or all-gender pronoun. They/them may also be used when pronouns are unknown. This functions as both a singular and plural pronoun.
“They” was Meriam Webster’s dictionary 2019 word of the year, with a 313 percent increase in searches. The singular use of “they” dates from 1375!
- Taylor doesn’t want to go to the movie because they think it’ll be scary.
- Carl is studying abroad soon. I'm so excited for them!
- I wonder who left their jacket.
Ze, hir, hirs: A non-gendered pronoun. Pronounced "zee," "here," and "heres."
- Ze is meeting us before we walk to Autzen Stadium.
- I heard hir singing at the Open Mic in Common Grounds.
- I think that burrito is hirs.
Co, co, cos: A non-gendered pronoun. Pronounced "coh," "coh," and "cohs."
- Jesse is going to be my roommate in Gender Inclusive Housing. Co is bringing a mini-fridge.
- Did you wish co a "happy birthday" yet?
- I just got back from cos room in Global Scholars Hall.
Per, per, pers: A non-gendered pronoun. Pronounced as it looks.
- Per is going to Portland for the weekend.
- We asked per to be the officiant at our wedding after the recent SCOTUS decision.
- I left my phone in pers room.
Name only: Someone may also want to be referred to by their name only and not use pronouns.
- Ubo went back to Ubo’s house after the party.
Types of Honorifics
An honorific is a form of address indicating respect. These can be titles prefixing a person's name, such as Mr. Nagisa, Ms. Weinberg, or Mx. Rosales. The only way to know the honorific to best refer to someone is to ask, similar to using pronouns.
Mx: Pronounced “mix,” this is an alternative to common gendered honorifics such as Mr. and Ms. It is often used by trans and non-binary people, or those who do not wish to be referred to by gendered honorifics.
- Dear Mx Ann...
- I would like to welcome Mx Propp to the podium.
- Ms. and Mx Parrish are a wonderful couple.
Mr: A gendered honorific often used to refer to men, but not always.
Ms: A gendered honorific to refer to women, but not always.
In the 20th century, “Ms.” was revived as a result of the inherent sexism in women's honorifics that indicate a woman's marital status. Previously “Miss” was used to indicate an unmarried woman and “Mrs.” meant a woman was married. There is no such distinction in the men’s honorific, which has been limited to “Mr.” For this reason, among gendered honorifics, the use of Ms. is preferred as it sheds a sexist gender distinction.
Starting a dialogue about the importance of pronouns can be informative and powerful. Here are a few quick, one-sentence explanations you can use to explain why it's important to share pronouns!
- I share mine because I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe or unwelcome and I think this helps.
- I think that sharing my pronouns helps everyone feel included and respected.
- If we just asked trans people to share them, it would put them on the spot or make them carry the burden.
- Sharing my pronouns helps make my workspace more welcoming to UO Ducks of all genders.
- I want to make sure that everyone gets my name and pronouns right every time. I want to make sure I get everyone else’s name and pronouns right, too!
- I think it’s more respectful not to assume someone’s gender based on how I think they look. I’m sharing mine so that you won’t have to assume either!
- I share mine because I am an active ally to the LGBTQIA+ community.
- I share mine because I am so proud to be trans, and having the chance to share my pronouns at work is phenomenal!
- I share my pronouns so that people have the chance to remember that assumptions about gender hurt us all.
- Because I always want to fight prejudice against transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary people whenever and wherever I can.
- I believe in radical acceptance and unconditional love.
If you are a student, staff, or faculty member wishing to receive a pronoun ribbon for your nametag, please use our online form.
Want to learn more about being an ally to the trans community? Sign up for a training with the Queer Ally Coalition!