Pronouns

A pronoun is the word used to refer to something or someone: “he”, “she”, “they”, and so on. Different gender identities use different pronouns and for both transgender and non-binary people in particular, the correct use of pronouns is important in affirming their gender identity.

First steps

In order to help create an environment that is inclusive of diverse gender identities, we recommend inviting your group to share the pronouns that they would like people to use when addressing them. This should be applied to the whole group to avoid putting any one person on the spot and can be done either aloud, using labels, or some other mechanism – ideally from the start of any event/activity.

You may find that some people suggest more than one pronoun, such as “she/they”, meaning that they would be comfortable referred to using feminine gendered pronouns (she/her/hers) or non-gendered pronouns (they/them/their). In English, “they” has come to most often be used to refer to two or more people, and so it may take some time to use it confidently in this sense.

Misgendering

In some cases, you may accidentally use the wrong pronoun. This is called “misgendering” If you become aware of doing so, it is normally best to immediately correct yourself. Equally, if someone around you is referring to someone with the wrong pronoun, it is often most appropriate to politely correct the mistake or to ensure that the individual (if present) is supported in explaining their preferred pronoun.

If you use the wrong pronoun and someone corrects you, it can be best to thank them for the correction rather than apologizing; this shows gratitude towards them for sharing an aspect of their identity and may be appreciated much more than the awkwardness of an apology. It can be difficult to correct misgendering (however accidental) and so you should try to make sure that your response is positive and supportive.

Inclusive greetings

As we cover in our public speaking course, in group contexts you should consider how inclusive your greeting is. For a formal presentation, for instance, it is more inclusive of non-binary identities to use the greetings “distinguished guests” or simply “Good morning/evening everyone”, rather than the more common “Ladies and gentlemen”.