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Pronouns are used in everyday language, and are oftentimes done so without us even noticing. For many individuals though, pronouns can be a very important and personal aspect of one’s identity.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community do not identify with the gender norms that have presented themselves within society and in history. This causes countless individuals to face disrespect, prejudice, and alienation from others around them.

With this, it is important to take the action needed to bring more inclusivity to our communities. A necessary step to creating more inclusive environments is learning and understanding gender as a concept, as well as an identity. 

The following is a list of related terms and definitions:

  • Pronouns: words that can be used to refer to a person, often when they have already been mentioned
  • Biological Sex: a label given at birth determined by factors such as chromosomes and reproductive organs. Examples of terms used to identify a person’s biological sex include: Female, Male, and Intersex.
  • Gender: a socially constructed form of identity based on behaviors, roles, and stereotypes
  • Gender Identity: a person’s sense of their own gender, how they view themselves in regards to gender
  • Misgendering: referring to someone in a way that does not align with their gender identity

Examples of pronouns:

  • She/Her/Hers
  • He/Him/His
  • They/Them/Theirs

It is important to remember that a person’s gender identity and pronouns do not need to be congruent with their biological sex, as these are different parts of one’s identity.

Gender has shown to be very fluid as there are both folks who do and do not identify with the pronouns that align with their assigned gender, as well as individuals who identify with multiple sets of pronouns.

With this, many queer individuals face constant scrutiny for their gender identity and, as a result, are often misgendered by others.

A safer and more inclusive environment can be made by taking the time and effort to actively learn and use others’ pronouns. 

How to be inclusive when using pronouns

  • Ask for a person’s pronouns. Asking a person a simple question such as ‘What pronouns do you use?’ or ‘Can I ask what your pronouns are?’ can help create a safe and comfortable environment for queer folks.
  • Share your own pronouns. Whether it is during conversation, or adding your pronouns to your badge or lanyard at work, sharing your pronouns to others can greatly help bring a feeling of safety to those in the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Respect and use others’ pronouns. If a person communicates their pronouns to you, it is important to honor those pronouns in your speech when referring to them.
  • Become aware of your language uses when addressing a group. Though commonly used, terms like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and ‘boys and girls’ are not inclusive to many members of the LGBTQ+ community including nonbinary individuals. Instead, a few alternatives that can help create a more inclusive environment are ‘folks’, ‘everyone’, ‘students’, ‘associates’, and ‘friends’.
  • Be open to learning and listening to others’ experiences. It is important to have compassion for others, whether we have things in common with them or not. Being willing to learn about people that are different from us and respecting and celebrating them for it greatly helps make the world a kinder and safer place for everyone.

About Amaria Abreu: “Through my writing I hope to help provide a voice for underrepresented groups of people, and to bring education and a new perspective to people outside of these communities. My goal is to help turn tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community into celebration.

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