I wrote this blog as an introduction to pronouns for those who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable navigating them.
Before we dive in, I do want to touch on the subject of sex vs. gender.
“Sex” refers to a person’s biological makeup. This includes body parts, chromosomes, and hormones. “
Gender” refers to how a person presents themselves. This includes many things like clothes, hairstyle, makeup, and mannerisms.
This is the most simplistic explanation of the two. If you want a more detailed explanation, read this article from Planned Parenthood.
To understand pronouns, it is important to understand gender identity and gender expression.
A person’s gender identity is how they feel in relation to the world. For example: I identify as a woman, so my pronouns are she/her/hers and I also feel comfortable with they/them/theirs.
I express myself in a feminine manner - I wear makeup, have long hair, and shop in the women’s section for my clothes.
This is part of what makes me lucky; my assigned sex, gender identity, and gender expression all line up in a way that is socially agreed upon and therefore, you can probably guess my pronouns by looking at me.
There are a plethora of pronouns that people use today, but I will go over the most common ones below:
- She/her/hers - woman
- He/him/his - man
- They/them/theirs - nonbinary/agender/gender fluid
- Ze/hir/hirs - nonbinary/agender/gender fluid
These are the pronouns that I hear the most in my life, but the list goes on and on. For more, see this article.
Now, it’s great that you understand these terms in theory. But, how do you apply them in real life? You can no longer just look at someone and know how to describe them. How do you figure out what their pronouns are?
A general rule of thumb to use is this:
Do you interact with this person enough that knowing their specific pronouns is relevant? You don’t need to ask a random person you bumped into on the bus about their pronouns.
However, a new friend that you see on the bus every day might appreciate that you care. If you feel uncomfortable asking, try starting with your pronouns and going from there. If it is just way too uncomfortable at the start to ask what a person’s pronouns are, try using neutral pronouns for the short term.
Mistakes are not the end of relationships. This is important because everybody makes mistakes.
This was an introduction to pronouns, but if you want to discuss this further, please check out RESCQU NET’s “I have ?’s” group!
Writer and Volunteer for Rescqu.net. Rises in the east