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Diversity and Inclusion: Gender Pronouns

Introduction

On this webpage, you will find:

  • an explanation of gender pronouns,
  • why this topic is important,
  • links to scholarly, popular, and Walden University resources,
  • information about adding your pronouns to your e-mail signature line.

What is a gender pronoun?

Word cloud of pronounsIn English, gender pronouns are gender identifiers for the third-person singular. In the past, gender pronouns were separated into masculine (he/him/his) and feminine (she/her/hers). This separation of masculine and feminine is called gender binary and only recognizes men and women. Many people identify outside of the gender binary. Gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them or xe/xer/xers allow individuals to use pronouns they feel fit with their identities.

Why do pronouns matter?

Pronouns, like personal names, are connected to a person's identity. Just as we can show respect by calling others by their correct name(s), we can show respect by using the correct pronouns. Using the wrong pronoun can make a person feel uncomfortable and possibly invalidated or alienated.

A person’s name or physical appearance do not necessarily indicate their gender so we should not make gender assumptions based on these. Names are often culturally linked and many names are used for different genders; not every name is specifically male or female. It can be challenging to determine a person's gender from their name alone. And some people do not identify with a binary gender.

At Walden University, like many other places, there are people from a variety of backgrounds and locations. Using correct pronouns can help to create a respectful and inclusive community.

How do I talk to others about pronouns?

We interact with many people every day, and not all may agree with our choice to share pronouns. Below is suggested language that you can use for specific situations where the topic may come up in conversation.

  • Comment: I don't agree with you sharing your pronouns. It just isn't necessary.
  • Potential response:  I understand where you are coming from, but to me pronoun visibility really is necessary. Many people have a name and gender that correspond with traditional pronoun usage; however, this is not the case for all. Some of our staff, faculty, and students have continually been referred to by the wrong pronoun, which makes them feel disrespected. Rather than just asking those individuals to share their pronouns, we can be inclusive and all embrace this practice. It removes any ambiguity and the potential to hurt. This is why it is important to me. 

 

  • Comment: I've noticed that you are including pronouns in your signature line. Why is that?
  • Potential response: Thanks for noticing the pronouns in my signature line! Many places give space for community members to share their pronouns verbally, and in legal records and other documents. I am trying to initiate a similar practice here at Walden. The pronouns in my signature line are meant to raise awareness of gender identities. Sharing my pronouns can help others feel comfortable sharing their pronouns as well. Walden is a diverse university, so there are many opportunities to inadvertently use the wrong pronoun. It is important that we make efforts to show respect to each other; this is one way to do so.

 

How else can you encourage conversation about gender pronouns--while also helping to infuse pronoun sharing into Walden's culture?

Image of button with text "My pronouns are."

  • You can add your pronouns to your email signature line. (See signature line examples.)
  • Share your pronouns with students you teach, advise, or mentor. Ask them politely if they would like to share theirs (if they prefer not to share their pronouns, simply refer to them by their name). In the classroom, this sharing could be an optional part of students' and faculty's Class Cafe introductions. Example: "I'm excited to teach you this quarter! So that I can be sure to refer to you correctly, I would love to learn both the name that you go by and, if you are comfortable sharing, the pronouns you use. For example, you can call me Dr. Jones or Camille, and my pronouns are she / her / hers."

What if I don’t want to share my gender pronouns with others?

There are many reasons why people may choose not to share their gender pronouns.

  • they do not identify with any of the current pronouns in use 
  • sharing their pronouns is an unnecessary act for them to perform
  • they are uncomfortable revealing their gender pronouns in a specific context
  • fear of repercussions

Whatever the reasoning behind the choice not to identify your gender pronouns, the point is that you have the choice. The goal is to provide people with the opportunity to share their gender pronouns if they choose.

Pronoun List

Below is a table of both gendered and gender-neutral pronouns, along with their pronunciations. It is important to note, though, that some people do not subscribe to any pronoun and may like to be referred to by name only. This is also not an exhaustive list. 

Subject Object Possessive Pronunciation
She Her Hers shee, hur, hurs
He Him His hee, him, hiz
They* Them* Theirs* thei, them, thehrz
Xe Xem Xyrs zee, zem, zeres
Ze Hir Hirs zee, here, heres
Ze Zir Zirs zee, zere, zeres
E Em Eirs ay, em, airs

* Though they / them / theirs are traditionally plural, these pronouns can be used as singular in this context. Example: Xander scored well on their final paper; they received an A