When you go off to university, you’ll be making lots of new friends. It’s incredibly important to respect people’s pronouns to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for everybody. This guide will give you a few ideas on how to correctly use people’s pronouns.

Gender pronouns and how to use them
Source: Canva

What are pronouns?

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun, for example, ‘Amy said’ can become ‘she said’. People choose their pronouns to reflect their gender – using these pronouns shows a person that you respect them, whilst affirming their gender. These pronouns could be he/him, she/her, or gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. There has been a shift away from referring to pronouns as either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, since not everybody with she/her pronouns feels feminine.

Examples of pronouns

Aside from the she/her and he/him pronouns that most people are used to using, there are many other options. This is not an exhaustive list, and you must respect any pronouns that do not appear here. Here are some you might commonly hear:

  • They/them
  • Ze/zim
  • Xe/xem
  • Sie/hir
  • Tey/ter
  • Ve/ver
  • Ey/em

While many of these pronouns may be described as gender-neutral, it does not mean that the person using the pronouns are neutral about their gender. Gender is a social construct and it’s entirely flexible.

Gender pronouns and how to use them
Source: Shutterstock

Rolling pronouns

You might see some people using she/they, he/they, or he/she/they pronouns. These are referred to as rolling pronouns, and they’re used for different reasons. Some gender-fluid people may use different pronouns on different days to reflect their identity. Other people may feel a connection to multiple genders at once.

How we can create an inclusive environment

Put your pronouns in your social media bios and encourage other people to do the same. The more normalised this becomes, the better it is for everyone. You can also introduce yourself with your pronouns, then ask the other person for theirs. For example, “Hi, my name is John and my pronouns are he/him. What are yours?”. This helps to normalise pronouns in conversation and it ensures you’ll get a new friend’s pronouns right. However, you should be careful with this in group conversations – never single out one member of a group. If you want to know people’s pronouns, ask everybody.

Signing off your emails with your pronouns will also help your professors/lecturers, and it’s becoming much more common in university settings. If you have classes on Zoom or Google Meet, you could put your pronouns next to your name.

Sometimes people change their pronouns, and it can be difficult to get used to, but make the effort! Sometimes mistakes happen, and you may slip up. Don’t make a huge deal out of it and draw attention to your mistake. Simply apologise, correct yourself, and move on.

Respect everyone’s pronouns, never purposely misgender anyone, and never use slurs.

Gender pronouns and how to use them
Source: Canva

Check out our pride flags guide for more information on how you can educate yourself on LGBTQ matters.