If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably seen people with their pronouns displayed on their bio, username or somewhere else on their account. You might wonder why they do that, and the basic answer is: it’s a way to identify how you want to be referred to.
Some might think you can simply look at someone’s name or profile picture to tell their gender/pronouns, but it is not that simple. For starters, there are more gender identities than man and woman, and pronouns don’t always equal gender.
Before we delve into this subject, it’s important to understand the difference between sex and gender identity:
Sex: Sex is a label — male or female — that you’re assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have. It does not necessarily match someone’s gender / gender identity.
Gender: Gender is complex: It’s a social and legal status, and set of expectations from society about behaviors, characteristics, and thoughts. Gender identity is the internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be.
(source: LGBT Life Center)
Though cisgender people probably don’t spend much time thinking about their pronouns, pronouns are a big deal to people who aren’t cisgender – which includes anyone who identifies as a gender that differs from the sex that was assigned to them at birth (transgenders, nonbinaries, genderfluids, etc).
It is crucial to respect someone’s pronouns; acording to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 by The Trevor Project, “Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.”
Thus, it is safe to say that respecting people’s pronouns is much more important than cis people might think it is.
If you’re cis, you might wonder: why should I include my pronouns on my social media accounts?
The short answer is: to be a better ally. The long answer: when cisgender people display their pronouns publicly, we’re helping normalize this action. For non-cis people, displaying their pronouns is not always easy, as it can make them a target and make them feel isolated.
There are risks involved with displaying your pronouns as a non-cis person; but for cisgenders, it is always safe. In addition, when cis people display their pronouns, it shows non-cis folks that we’re more open to discussions about gender, thus, our page is a safe space for them.
In sum, by displaying our pronouns as cisgender, we’re helping to create a safer and more inclusive platform for non-cis people.
There are some questions that might rise with this discussion. Some of the most common are:
Where should I include my pronouns?
You can include your pronouns on your twitter/instagram bio, LinkedIn profile, and resume, for example! Some people also add their pronouns on their email signature. Basically, you can display your pronouns wherever you display your name.
How can I make sure I’m using the correct pronouns?
The safest way of knowing someone’s pronouns is to simply ask them. Some good ways of asking are: “I didn’t catch your pronouns, could you remind me?”, “Hi, my name is X and my pronouns are she/her. What about you?”, or simply “What pronouns should I use when addressing you?”
What should I do if I make a mistake?
Mistakes happen. Don’t make a big deal about it and don’t try to justify your actions or explain yourself. Do the same thing you would do if you got someone’s name wrong: quickly apologize and correct yourself.
If you haven’t added your pronouns to your social media bio yet, I hope this article helps you understand why it is a good idea to do so.