Celebrating Our Community this International Pronouns Day

by Madeleine Roberts

Every year on the third Wednesday in October, we mark International Pronouns Day. According to the official website, this day “seeks to make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace,” with the goal of “transform[ing] society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.” Knowing people’s pronouns helps us to refer to them correctly and respectfully. While many people use he/him or she/her pronouns, others may use they/them, ze/zir, other pronouns, or combinations of these pronouns. If you’re thinking about starting a conversation around pronouns today, whether at home or at work, with family or with friends, the HRC Foundation has some resources that may be helpful to you.

Sometimes conversations around pronouns can be difficult to begin, especially in the workplace. HRC has a guide to help with discussing pronouns in the workplace, including a history and background on pronouns and guidance to creating opportunities to ask for someone’s pronouns in a work environment, or to offer your own. HRC’s Workplace Equality Program also has a webinar, originally presented to corporate diversity and inclusion stakeholders, discussing non-binary, gender non-conforming and gender expansive people and identities in the workplace. To access the recording, click here and enter your name and email.

Pronouns aren’t just important in workplace settings, however. Many transgender and non-binary people may be thinking about navigating a conversation about their pronouns with friends or family on International Pronouns Day. HRC also has a “Pronouns 101” guide that could be helpful for anyone who is considering coming out to friends or family, or for anyone who wants to be an ally to a friend or family member who has recently come out.

Some individuals also do not use any pronouns, and may ask to be referred to only by name or by a nickname. It’s important to remember that we can never assume to know a person’s pronouns, or whether a person uses pronouns. When appropriate, normalize politely asking someone, “What are your pronouns?”, “What pronouns do you use?” or “Do you use pronouns?” That way, you’ll know the best and most respectful way to refer to everyone.

In addition, it’s more important than ever that we make sure trans and gender-expansive youth are supported. According to the HRC Foundation, less than one-fifth (18%) of trans and gender-expansive youth say that they are called by their correct pronouns at school, and according to Pew Research, one in five Americans personally knows someone who prefers a pronoun other than he or she. Especially during the pandemic, when LGBTQ youth may be quarantining with family who are not supportive of their trans and non-binary identities, creating environments where they feel welcomed as their full selves is essential.

Using the correct pronouns for people, whether they are transgender, non-binary, gender-expansive, gender non-conforming or cisgender, is incredibly important. It not only shows that we recognize others for who they are, but it’s also a sign of respect and courtesy.

Today, let’s work together to help create a world where everyone, including trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, feels comfortable sharing their pronouns every day.