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Why Preferred Gender Pronouns (PGPs) are Important

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St Olaf chapter.

During the week of March 16-20, the St. Olaf Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) hosted Preferred Gender Pronoun (PGP) Awareness Week on campus.  This week entailed a pledge, buttons and a number of workshops and activities throughout the week.  The pledge allowed students to agree to and advocate for the importance of PGPs in daily life.  Once a student signs the pledge (which you still can by going to the St. Olaf Gender and Sexuality Center Facebook page), they are given a button that reads “Ask me about my PGPs.”  Students who signed the pledge are thereby agreeing to wear their button during PGP Awareness Week to spark daily conversations about the importance of the topic.  As a student who signed the pledge, wore the button, got the t-shirt (not really), I felt that I taught my peers and classmates a lot and actually raised awareness.  

Now, what are PGPs and why are they important?

Preferred Gender Pronouns are how we address others in daily lives.  PGPs that you probably use in everyday life are she/her/hers, he/him/his or they/them/theirs. Oftentimes, based on someone’s appearance that usually coincides with our assumptions of masculine/male or feminine/female, we call people he or she without really thinking about it.  This is incorrect and potentially hurtful because not everybody’s gender performance is associated with their outward appearance.  Many people today prefer being referred to with gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir/zir.  Granted, many people do use he or she, and their appearance does match what our society perceives as a man or a woman respectively, but making assumptions about one’s identity can be uncomfortable and disrespectful regardless.  In addition to helping the St. Olaf community understand PGPs through Awareness Week and other activities, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) encourages you to ask everyone you meet for their PGPs – and then use them.  

Although this seems easy to follow, it’s clear that not all of the St. Olaf community has accepted it yet.  Unfortunately, last week several photos from the PGP Awareness display near Boe Chapel were taken down – mainly the photos of students who use gender neutral pronouns and other transgender students.  The GSC is considering this an act of vandalism with malicious intent.  As they say in their latest Facebook post, PGP week is not the end of PGP importance! On Monday, April 13 at 6:00 PM in Valhalla, there will be a Sustained Dialogue to discuss the recent conflicts, happenings and the importance of gender acceptance.

I hope you learned something about PGPs through this article, and I hope some of you are even inspired to take action!