This article was published on October 27th, 2022
Pronouns are the words people use to refer to themselves or others and are usually gendered- I, me, she, he, him, or you. These can also include gender-neutral pronouns-they/them. Using correct pronouns makes people feel valued, respected, and inclusive.
People often make assumptions about a person’s gender based on their appearance, dress code, and name, which can be harmful to gender-diverse, non-binary, and transgender people. Improper use of pronouns can signal to gender-diverse and trans people that they are unwelcome. For instance, some gender-diverse and trans people avoid healthcare services because they fear interacting with service providers will be disrespectful.
While people identify with their sex assigned at birth, others don’t identify with any gender, while some identity with multiple genders. But, only a person can determine their identity, which may change. When a person says their pronoun, they need you to understand how to be addressed without making assumptions.
Why using the right pronouns matter
People use pronouns depending on their gender identity given at birth. It’s vital for organizations, workplaces, and people to respect people’s pronouns. Gender identity can be considered an invisible attribute. That is why people should use their self-identified first name to replace their legal name given at birth and self-identified pronoun to replace assumed pronouns based on their sex or physical appearance perception.
Using incorrect pronouns can be harmful. If a person is misnamed or misgendered, they can feel disrespected, dismissed, and invalidated. Such things can be a threat to a person’s mental health. For instance, non-binary and transgender people are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than others. They are also four times more likely to engage in substance abuse. The use of proper pronouns reduces suicidal and depression risks.
One study found that young people who use their names and pronoun have 71% less severe depression symptoms, a 34 % decrease in suicidal thoughts, and a 65% decrease in suicidal attempts.
Which pronouns should you use?
The best way to identify a person using their pronouns is by asking. She/her identifies as female gender while he/him identifies as the male gender. They/ them are common gender-neutral pronouns used by non-binary and gender-diverse people. Some people use it without any gendered expectations. According to research conducted in the US, over a quarter of LGBTQ+ identify themselves as non-binary.
Everybody has the right to use pronouns that match their identity. If you use a wrong pronoun to address someone, it’s best to acknowledge your mistake or apologize and try to get it right, given another chance. But, if a wrong pronoun is constantly used to refer to someone’s gender, it’s considered misgendering, a form of harassment and discrimination. Though pronouns may or may not match their gender personality, always ask them.