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Connective Issues: A UMass Chan diversity and inclusion blog

Pronouns: Honoring identity and fostering inclusion

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Conversation bubbleLanguage serves as the bridge that connects us, allowing us to express ourselves, share ideas and build meaningful relationships. The use and display of pronouns hold a unique significance, transcending grammatical constructs to become fundamental markers of identity. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, pronouns carry an even deeper weight, representing a crucial step toward recognizing and respecting their diverse gender identities.

The LGBTQ+ community encompasses a spectrum of gender identities, extending beyond the traditional binary of male and female. For individuals who identify as transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming or non-binary, using their correct pronouns is an act of validation, affirming their authentic selves. When someone is consistently referred to by pronouns that align with their gender identity, it conveys a sense of acceptance and belonging, fostering a safe and inclusive environment.

Misgendering, the act of using incorrect pronouns, can have profound negative consequences. Misgendering can trigger feelings of dysphoria, a deep sense of discomfort or distress that arises from a perceived mismatch between one’s internal gender identity and one’s outward gender presentation. It can also lead to anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation, particularly among transgender youth.

The importance of pronouns extends beyond the individual level, impacting the overall well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. When pronouns are consistently used correctly in schools and universities, workplaces, health care settings and public spaces, it signals a broader societal acceptance of gender diversity. This, in turn, can lead to increased visibility, representation and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

To ensure that we honor the spectrum of identities within the LGBTQ+ community, it is essential to adopt an inclusive approach to language. This involves:

  • Normalizing pronoun introductions: Encourage individuals to share their pronouns when introducing themselves, creating a safe space for everyone to express their identities.
  • Respecting individual choices: Always use the pronouns that someone has explicitly stated for themselves. Never assume someone's pronouns based on their appearance or name.
  • Educating ourselves: Familiarize yourself with the diverse range of gender identities and the pronouns associated with them.
  • Correcting mistakes gracefully: If you accidentally misgender someone, apologize sincerely and use the correct pronouns moving forward.

By embracing the importance of pronouns, we can foster a more inclusive and respectful world, one that celebrates the diversity of human experience and affirms the right of every individual to be seen and valued for who they truly are.