Pronouns

Auf Deutsch

Pronouns are quite specific to each language and not everything translates well. Here’s a nice resource on non-binary [nichtbinär] pronouns in German

Introduction

Third-person pronouns in English (and some other languages like German) are the words people use to talk about someone else. So, for example, “I just spoke to my friend, she‘s going to bring her picnic blanket to the park. I said I’d meet her there.”

We’re taught at a young age to assume people’s gender, including the pronouns they use, from appearance as well as other factors. But reality is more complex for many trans, non-binary and other folk so actually you won’t know which pronouns people use unless you ask. So ask. We always have a space on sign up forms for people to mention their pronouns if they want to limit our assumptions and mistakes.

Which pronouns?

There are a range of pronouns that people use – she, he, they, xe – and others. Some people don’t use pronouns at all, using their name instead. Some pronouns have a special grammar usage. For example, ‘they’ can be used as a gender-neutral pronoun for one person but uses the same grammar as plural they: “I just spoke to my friend, they’re going to bring their picnic blanket to the park. I said I’d meet them there.” Singular they has been in use since the 14th Century.

Sometimes you’ll see people’s pronouns on their profiles, for example “[name] she/her”on a facebook profile. Not only trans people use pronouns and when cis* people also do this, it becomes much more normalised to state pronouns without making assumptions. If you work with groups, be aware that doing a round of asking people’s pronouns -while useful for normalising pronoun use and limiting mistakes – might also ‘out’ trans people in the room who don’t want to be outed. It has to be optional.

Other notes

Watch out for the terms ‘preferred pronouns’ and ‘X identifies as Y’. Pronouns aren’t a preference for trans and non-binary people anymore than they are for cis people. No-one likes to be misgendered. Trans women don’t identify as women, they are women. If you make a mistake, simply apologise, correct yourself and get it right next time.

At the beginning it can feel strange to ask about pronouns, but many of us are used to it and it will be better than making an assumption or a mistake. Using people’s correct pronouns is a sign of respect and one small step towards gender liberation.

*people whose gender corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.