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Pronouns Matter

In the English language, commonly used pronouns which refer to a person are gendered with a singular (not plural) male/female binary.  Not everyone identifies with binary gender options used in either common or formal language.  When a person states their pronouns (he, she, ze, they, etc), they are asking for respect and use of  their identified pronouns when referring to them.  Those who choose not to use a person's identified pronouns and instead use other pronouns are both invalidating another's identity and also potentially implying invalidation which may not have been intended.

One's gender identity is not a choice.  Gender identity is an individual’s innate and deeply held sense of being male, female, or another gender. This is separate from biological sex. Gender identity may be expressed in many ways, including in the use of pronouns.  Gender expression can be defined as the way we show our gender to the world around us. Therefore pronouns used are neither implicitly preferred nor chosen.  The phrase “preferred pronouns” implies people having a pronoun “preference” rather than simply having “pronouns.” Using “preferred” can unintentionally insinuate that using the correct pronouns for someone is optional. It is important to remember individuals do not make choices about their gender identity and should not be pressured to change.   Additionally, the words used to communicate gender identity may evolve over time both as a community and in individuals themselves.  Identifying and naming gender can be both complex and evolving even in an individual person due to many factors, including the limitations of language, a better understanding of self as one grows, and increased (or decreased) comfort levels as they express their gender identity in public and private social and professional settings due to economic, safety, or other reasons.

To both be more inclusive and promote the safety of all individuals, we wish to promote the habit of everyone engaging in preliminary identification of which pronoun we use when introducing ourselves. People may use a gendered pronoun, single (he/she),  a non-gendered pronoun (ve, ver, ze, zer, etc), or plural pronoun (they).  An example of how to introduce one’s self may look like the sentence below:

"Hello my name is ______, and I use [insert pronouns, or lack there of here] pronouns."

A person's identity may change as they better understand gender identity in social constructs, so it’s important to be aware that pronouns may change.  Purposefully not using a person's correct name and pronouns can be interpreted as actively disrespectful or even antagonistic. Using the wrong pronouns or name can also create unsafe situations, potentially outing this person unwillingly, and here at Geneseo, can create a hostile classroom environment that may make it very difficult for them to thrive.

With the permission of Onlea and The Pride Centre of Edmonton the following video explanation will elaborate, discuss, and use examples of pronoun usage. 

You may directly access the video hosted through YouTube.