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Guide to Using Pronouns for Allies and Advocates

Guide to Using Pronouns for Allies and Advocates

#PrideMonth2018 may have come and gone, but Vibrant intends to bring visibility to our LGBTQIAP+ friends all year long. First stop on the educational activism train to honor transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary folks is to provide some insight about gender identity and using pronouns. Using language that’s inclusive can make a major difference for people in these communities. Read this guide to pronouns to ensure you are helping make this world a welcoming place for everybody and actively working on your skills as an ally.

Guide to Pronouns: The Basics

Generally speaking, gender neutral pronouns just make sense. Gendered pronouns can feel limiting to people – they come with expectations and assumptions about identity.

Also keep in mind that while gender neutral pronouns exist and some non-binary folks like them, as a society, we haven’t yet found a panacea for our overly-gendered language. Working out the way we see and use gender in our day to day lives is an ongoing process. And a variety of gender neutral pronouns exist. These suggestions below will help you use language that makes everyone feel valid and seen, no matter how they identify.

1. Normalize Pronouns

You can quickly do this by naming your pronouns in your email signature and your social media bios as a start.

This is a less direct, but effective way to show the world where you stand and bring gender identity into interactions you have with people you communicate with in a variety of spheres. It helps to normalize the conversation so that people stop assuming someone’s pronouns based on the conventional gendering of their name.

2. Ask for Pronouns

Try asking people for their pronouns when you meet them as a part of getting to know them by name – not just those who appear gender nonconforming, but everyone.

We recommend not asking for “preferred pronouns,” because someone’s gender identity is a significant part of their existence. Framing pronouns as a preference minimalizes this. A preference is liking chocolate ice cream more than vanilla; using someone’s correct pronouns is a core part of showing them respect as a human being. A simple, “Hey, by the way, what personal pronouns do you use?” is one way to word it.

3. Never Assume Pronouns

You NEVER know how someone identifies their gender. Gender identity can often be different from gender presentation and expression due to the stigma associated with being non-binary.

Also, neither identity nor presentation are necessarily associated with the pronouns that someone uses. These pronouns can also shift since gender is fluid for some people and may fluctuate in their life as they explore their identity. Side Note: gender exploration can be a part of becoming more sex positive in addition to exploring one’s sexuality.

4. Make an Effort and Practice!

The best way to show awareness is through action. Make an effort to get outside your comfort zone by recognizing and practicing using the variety of rainbow pronouns that exist.

This is one simple and personal way to demonstrate your care and respect for genderqueer folks. There are a variety of gender informed and queer-created sources online that you can use for reference in learning about pronouns, including charts like this as a guide to pronouns for visual learners. Look to queer organizations who are actively offering educational and advocacy services to become more aware and get connected. Vibrant consults with Queer Asterisk, a Colorado based nonprofit that provides customized diversity and inclusivity training. Do a quick google search to see what queer-led organizations are available in your community who provide education for allies, in addition to support for the LGBTQIAP+ community.

5. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes; Apologize and Move On

We’re all in the process of understanding gender for the beautiful spectrum that it is. As individuals and groups, we’re continually learning from each other. It might seem challenging at first, but practice makes progress. No one is perfect, right? We’re all “imperfect” in some way. 😉

If you misgender someone by mistake, quickly apologize and move on in the conversation without making a big deal about it. Then do your best to use their pronouns and gender them appropriately going forward.

A great way to remind yourself is by correcting others who aren’t aware of someone’s pronouns. You can briefly mention to them what pronouns that person uses and it reinforces that recall for yourself, as well.

6. Use Non-Binary Greetings

Instead of greeting a group with, “ladies and gentlemen” or “guys,” try to use language that isn’t gendered. A few options we like to use: folks, y’all, everyone, or friends are all great and generally come across well to a variety of audiences.

If you regularly speak to groups of people professionally, this can really create larger impact. Even in casual settings and at social gatherings, try it! You might make someone who would otherwise feel quite uncomfortable feel like they have the space to be more of who they are.

Thanks for Reading our Guide to Pronouns!

We hope this  guide to pronouns helps you on your journey to becoming an ally or advocate. Have questions? Talk to the professionals! We’re available 9am-9pm EST daily on our website chat (just push the purple button at the bottom right!) or call us at 866-316-VIBE (8423).

Heather Newhouse