Everyone has pronouns that others use to refer to them, including cisgender people. However, nobody is purposely misgendering cis people in order to invalidate their gender. The same cannot be said about transgender people. Trans people are often misgendered, deadnamed; sometimes purposely, and sometimes accidentally. Misgendering is the process of referring to someone with the incorrect pronouns. No matter the intention, being misgendered can negatively impact trans people’s mental well-being. We provide a guide for people who would like to better understand why pronouns should always be respected.
Why do pronouns matter?
Mary Emily O’Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD, explained that pronouns are ‘how we identify ourselves’. When you refer to someone with the correct pronouns, it is also a way to affirm their identity. This is exactly why it matters. It is a way for you to show respect towards someone’s identity, without invalidating them. Remember that pronouns do not equal gender. Just because someone identifies as non-binary, it does not mean they use they/them. Some people do not have pronouns, simply being referred to by their name. This is just as valid and deserves equal respect.
As part of their gender affirming healthcare journey, trans and non-binary people may wish to choose a new name and be addressed with different pronouns. Reintroducing oneself can be a very overwhelming and scary process. Therefore, it is important to always support trans people wherever you can. While for some choosing a name is a simple decision, for many it could take a much longer time. Remember that trans people are allowed to change their name and pronouns as much as they like.
The workplace is for many the place they spend most of their week in. This is why being respected by your employers and co-workers is vital. If your employee has come out as trans, they may also have certain pronouns they would like you to use when referring to them. If you do not know someone’s pronouns, kindly ask them. However, ensure that the space you are asking them in is a safe space for such a conversation. It is best to ask the person privately, to avoid outing them to a group of strangers.
Once you know their pronouns, make sure you always use them. Mistakes happen, however, when they do, avoid centering your own shame and guilt and simply apologise and move on. The last thing your trans colleague wants is for you to make it all about yourself. An example would be: ‘She, sorry, he, will be attending the meeting’. This way you acknowledge your mistake, apologise and move on.
List of most common pronouns
We have created a list of the most commonly used pronouns in the English language and how you would use them correctly in a sentence:
This list is simply a guide for you to have a general idea of how to refer to someone with a certain set of pronouns. It is by no means indicative of all genders and identities. Education is key, so make sure you educate yourself on issues affecting the trans community. If you are an employer, ensure your work has already implemented policies on how to best support trans employees.
If you are new to the subject and would like to first and foremost understand the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation as well as what the different LGBTQ+ terms mean, visit our blog for a comprehensive list and explanation. We have also written a guide with some essential tips on how to create a safe and welcoming workplace for trans and non-binary employees, which you can check out on our blog.