What are pronouns?
Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. Personal pronouns are words like “I/my/mine”, “you/your/yours”, “he/him/his”, “she/her/hers”, and “they/them/theirs”.
Often people tend to think that “he/him” refers to a man or a boy, and “she/her” refers to a woman or a girl, as these pronouns are gendered in the English language. People also tend to make assumptions about someone’s gender based on their appearance. However, these assumptions are not always correct.
We are all assigned a sex at birth based on attributes such as our chromosomes, hormones and external and internal anatomy. Cisgender (cis) people are those who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender (trans) people are those whose gender does not align with the sex which they were assigned at birth. Non-binary is an umbrella term covering gender identities that fall outside the gender binary, i.e. are not exclusively male or female.
Why do pronouns matter?
A person does not have to look a certain way to be a certain gender, so we should not assume a person’s pronouns from their appearance, voice or characteristics.
Using the correct pronouns for someone is a basic sign of respect, so it is important to note what pronouns a person goes by.
Some non-binary people go by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them”, but there are also non-binary people who go by “she/her” or “he/him”.
Some people go by more than one set of pronouns, e.g. a person might go by both “she/her” and “they/them”.
There are other gender-neutral pronouns that people may go by, such as “ze/hir” or “ze/zir”. Find out more about ‘ze’ pronouns.
How to use and share pronouns
When you do not yet know which pronouns someone goes by, it is generally a good idea to use “they/them”.
If you are not sure what pronouns to use for someone, it is okay to ask, but do make sure to share your own too, e.g. “My pronouns are she/her, by the way. What pronouns do you go by?”
We encourage all Accent staff to share their pronouns with their colleagues if they feel comfortable doing so, but nobody should ever be forced to share their pronouns if they do not wish to.
To continue to build a culture which is inclusive of all genders, you should avoid wording that assumes there are only two genders, e.g.:
- Instead of “ladies and gentlemen”, say “everybody”, “colleagues”, or “friends and guests”.
- Instead of “he/she” (when referring to someone unknown or a universal person), use “they” or “the person”.
- Instead of “men and women”, say “people”.
You can find out and read more about pronouns on MyPronouns.org.