Understanding someone’s pronouns


Nowadays, knowing someone’s pronouns is pretty important, and respecting someone’s pronouns is even moreso. Personal pronouns are words that we use to refer to someone. You may use the pronouns “I, me,” or “myself” to refer to yourself. To refer to someone else you may use “she, him, they,” or “you.” 

Someone’s pronouns identify who they are. If they identify as a she, then she is a she, whether or not she was born in a man’s body. The same thing goes for men. If they identify as a he, he is a he, whether or not he was born in a woman’s body. Some people grow up and realize that they are not comfortable with their body, or they feel like they were born in the wrong body, so they decide to live their lives according to the gender with which they identify the most; this is what we call  “transgender.” Some people don’t feel comfortable as a man or a woman, so they can go by they/them, or what we call “nonbinary.” Others, depending on the day, can feel more manly so they go by he/him, or they can feel feminine so they go by she/her, or one day they feel both, so they go by they/them. It’s up to the person to decide which pronouns they feel comfortable with, and it’s up to you to respect their decision. 

It is important to respect someone’s gender identity. If someone asks you to call them they/them, and you continue to refer to them as she/her or he/him, that can come off as you believing that transgener, nonbinary, or gender neutral, does not exist, or should not exist, even if you do. Intentionally calling someone by the wrong pronoun can make them feel disrespected, and can be hard on their mental health. 

If you accidentally call someone by the wrong pronoun or you do not know their pronoun for sure, just simply apologize and correct yourself. If you realize that you messed up after the conversation is over, try to pull them off to the side and apologize. Don’t apologize over and over again though, as that can make them feel uncomfortable or feel like it’s their job to comfort you; just apologize and move on.

If someone does get upset, don’t feel like it is completely because of you. They may have had an experience in the past where they felt like their identity was being denied, and you misgendering them could make them feel like they aren’t valid. The most important thing for you to do is try not to misgender them again.

Some people will tell you the pronouns they prefer whenever you meet, but if they don’t and you aren’t sure what to call them without being disrespectful, try to call them by their name until you get a clear answer, or ask them or their friends. If you prefer a certain pronoun but you are too nervous to tell people, try telling someone you trust and see if they can tell others for you. 

Someone changing their name is also quite common if they identify as another gender or nonbinary, and you should respect that, too. If someone does change their name, their old name becomes their “deadname.” Even if you have known someone as their deadname for years, it is important to respect their name change and call them by their name, and again, if you slip up, just apologize and try not to do it again. Respect who someone is, whether or not you disagree with them.