During lockdown, there was so much evidence of privilege out in the world that people in both personal and professional forums started to notice and discuss what it’s like to be fair, equitable, and not operate from a place of privilege. What does equitable behavior look like?
Using a person’s preferred pronouns normalizes an equitable behavior. Assuming someone’s pronouns based on their name or appearance can be incorrect and “sends a potentially harmful message – that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate the gender that they are or are not.”
The Human Rights Campaign puts it this way:
Ask yourself how many times someone has used your name or a pronoun to refer to you today. Chances are this has happened countless times. Now, imagine that your coworker, or a family member, or your doctor or a friend routinely calls you by the wrong pronoun. That would be hard. This is why using a person’s chosen name and pronouns is essential to affirming their identity and showing basic respect. The experience of being misgendered – having someone use the incorrect pronouns to refer to you – can be uncomfortable and hurtful. The experience of accidentally misgendering someone can be difficult for both parties. Routinely asking and providing pronouns helps everyone avoid assumptions and feel comfortable interacting.
Our culture is changing and becoming more equitable all the time, which is definitely the direction we should be heading. Using a person’s correct pronouns is a good (and easy!) way to acknowledge and participate in that change. If pronoun usage is important to someone – particularly someone in a marginalized community – and you can acknowledge and respect them, it doesn’t cost anything, so why not? It’s a personal and professional courtesy and a good first step in terms of beginning to offer equity.
What are your pronouns? Think about adding them to your resume, LinkedIn profile, or email signature.