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International Pronouns Day

Courtyard from the window
20 October 2021

Today is International Pronouns Day, and the Sheffield Children’s colleague LGBT+ Network have put together some helpful information about what pronouns are and how we can all correctly use them.

What are pronouns?

In English, there are a number of different kinds of pronouns. International Pronouns Day is specifically referring to third person personal pronouns, which are used to describe a person when you are talking about them. These can be gender pronouns such as “she/her/hers” or “he/him/his” or gender neutral terms such as “they/them”. International Pronouns Day began in 2018 following a grassroots movement of LGBTQ+ advocates seeking to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.

How to use pronouns correctly

Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. For many transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary people, the simple act of being referred to with the correct pronouns — an experience many cisgender people take for granted every day — can be incredibly affirming.

If you ever sat outside of ‘stereotypical gender norms’, e.g. a boy with long hair, or a girl with short hair or who didn’t wear dresses, the chances are that you will have been misgendered at some point in your life. Misgendering someone can be an honest mistake, with no malice intended. However, misgendering can also be an intentionally hurtful and harmful attack. This can be felt especially keenly by trans or non-binary individuals and communities. It is best practice to not assume anyone’s gender identity or pronouns; the easiest way to learn what pronouns someone uses is just to politely ask them (“Hey, what pronouns do you use?”). If you do get someone’s pronouns wrong please quickly apologise and correct yourself. You can also show solidarity with someone who uses pronouns that others may mistake by politely correcting someone who has used the wrong pronoun even when the person isn’t there.

 Sharing your pronouns

Sharing your pronouns regardless of your gender normalises the practice of sharing pronouns, so that it is not just on transgender and non-binary people to do it. It makes it a much more inclusive process that we’re all in together. Sharing pronouns might seem like such a small thing to do if your pronouns align with the gender identity you were assigned at birth, but it can be life-changing to someone who constantly has to deal with being misgendered.

Some general rules to follow are;

·        Try not to assume someone’s gender or preferred pronouns

·        If you do not know – ask (it can feel awkward, but many people will be grateful to be asked rather than have you assume)

·        If you cannot ask – use they/them (They/Them has been used to refer to people whose gender identity is not known for hundreds of years, e.g. They left their scarf on the bus)

·        Normalise sharing pronouns – make your preferred pronouns part of your email signature, introduce yourself with your name and pronouns, and check pronouns with all service users – try not to only ask people who “look” trans or non-binary

Useful resources

Below are some resources on how to be a good ally and learn more about inclusive language;

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