Girls, Boys, and Beyond: How to Respect Pronouns

Girls, Boys, and Beyond: How to Respect Pronouns

By Alisa Oden (She/her)

October 28, 2020

In the past few years, pronouns and gender identity have become a much more widely accepted and acknowledged subject. More people have felt comfortable enough to come out, wether it be as transgender, intergender, gender-fluid, or simply no gender at all![1] Unfortunately, there’s still work to be done.

Pronouns may seem harmless by their most basic definition (a substitute for a noun, such as a name), but there is so much more to them than just that. No one views gender the same way. Some say there are 2 genders, others say there are over 78. Even cisgender people, those who identify with their biological gender, are profoundly impacted by their pronouns. It’s not fun when someone assumes your gender, and can even be damaging to your mental, emotional, and, by extent, physical health.

So, how do you go about pronouns, then?

“Just ask, don’t ever assume. You could deeply hurt someone without knowing, not everyone is comfortable with themselves.” Said an anonymous interviewee

This is exactly right. While hounding every stranger you see on the street about what pronouns they use isn’t a good way to go about this, if you’re not sure what pronouns someone prefers, just ask! In a survey about pronouns and gender identity, the majority of people said when asked for their pronouns, they felt more safe, comfortable, and accepted.

To cisgender folk, it might seem obvious what their personal pronouns are and don’t think to ask others what they prefer, but one little question can go a long way in normalizing pronouns.


If you’re addressing a group of people, chances are, not all of them are ladies or gentlemen. Instead, opt for more gender-neutral terms, like “folks”, or “friends”, etc.

How YOU can help normalize pronouns

The world is truly a scary place, especially when it comes to coming out. While it might be awkward if you start telling everyone you’re into guys or girls or everyone, you can definitely help normalize pronouns.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Including your pronouns in your social media bios
  • Putting your pronouns in your email signature
  • Giving your pronouns when you introduce yourself
  • Correcting someone if they aren’t using the right pronouns (politely, of course)


Even though at the beginning, remembering everyone’s pronouns might be hard, making the effort to do so makes all the difference. “If you catch yourself slipping up, just correct yourself and move on. “‘Sarah’s favorite- no, Sam’s favorite color is blue.’ Once you start doing that it will come easier to you over time.” -Anonymous


Additional links:

Appearance Does Not Reveal Gender: Normalizing The Use Of Pronouns


10 Tips About Pronouns


How Do I Share My Pronouns?


Why I Put Pronouns on my Email Signature (and LinkedIn profile) and You Should Too


Gender Pronouns | LGBT Resource Center



Gender Identity