Pictured: Different people sitting on grass. They can be addressed using different pronouns depending on their sex.

Why include pronouns? At Brighter Strategies one of our core values is to embrace diverse equitable and inclusive practices. To that end we strive to engage and understand beyond what we see so we can leverage the gifts and talents that lie within each member of the human race. We also strive to work with our clients to live their values by creating systems and processes that level the playing field.

If you are a cisgender person, meaning you were born male or female and live your life as that gender, you might not have given much thought to how people refer to you. People call you “he” or “she” and it seems normal. But, for people who do not present as stereotypically male or female, or are transgender, nonbinary, or intersex, the ways in which others refer to them can cause harm. People often make assumptions about a person’s gender based on the person’s appearance or name. These assumptions aren’t always correct, and can be painful.

Imagine a new colleague refused to call you by your correct name and instead called you by a nickname that you found demeaning or unpleasant. You might feel as though they were trying to erase your identity, insult you, or put their own need to not remember your name ahead of your need to be respected. This is similar to how it feels to be misgendered on a regular basis.

Using people’s correct and chosen personal pronouns is a way to show respect and create an inclusive environment. Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them by that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those words if that is not how that person wants to be known. Even worse would be to actively choose to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by.

What Are the Most Common Pronouns

The most common pronouns are the same as always, She/Her, He/Him. However, other pronouns like They/Them and Ze/Zim are becoming more commonplace. Having gone through years of English classes, many of us have a hard time using They/Them to refer to a singular person. The good news is, it’s fine and it has been fine for a long time. Even poet Emily Dickinson used “they” to refer to a singular person, and that was back in the 1880s. It may not feel natural to use “they” at first, but with practice it will no longer seem strange.

How Do You Know What Pronouns to Use

Many trans, nonbinary and intersex people choose to introduce themselves with their pronouns. You may have been in a meeting where someone said something like, “My name is Jane and my pronouns are she/her.” Or, you may have seen a nametag that says something similar.

If you are leading a professional meeting of new people, it would be kind to ask people to “Tell us your name, your role, and if you’re comfortable, your gender pronoun.” In a one-on-one conversation it is fine to ask a straightforward question such ask, “What are your gender pronouns?” or it might make someone feel less awkward if you lead with, “My pronouns are he/him, can you tell me which pronouns you prefer?”

Showing Support

It has become more common for even people who are cisgender to share pronoun information about themselves.

Having everyone share their pronouns normalizes the conversation around pronouns. Sharing your pronouns makes it more comfortable for those who feel the need to state their pronouns to do so.

At Brighter Strategies, we recently added gender pronouns to our company email signatures. We feel this is a good way to build inclusivity. We’re happy to bring awareness to something that others might not have thought about before. For us, using gender pronouns in email signatures also serves as a consistent action and reminder on an internal and external level that we believe respecting others gender identity is important.

For more information, please check out the My Pronouns website.

This brochure provides more information about Brighter Strategies’ approach to DEI.

You may also be interested in downloading our DEI framework below.

A Framework for DEI Strategy

Your organization is ready to get serious about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). But what does that mean? What departments does that include? How do you start? We’ve prepared this visual tool to help you better understand what’s included in a DEI plan and where you can start.

A Framework for DEI Strategy eBook