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The power of pronouns



Everyone has pronouns based on their gender identity, but it’s not always possible to know someone’s gender identity from their appearance alone, so we shouldn't make assumptions about a person’s pronouns from their appearance, voice, or characteristics.

Gender should be defined by the people who live it.​​​​​​​
It’s important not to “misgender” your family, friends or neighbours by referring to them with the wrong pronouns. In English, our most used pronouns (he/she) specifically refer to a person’s gender. For queer, gender nonconforming, nonbinary and transgender people, these pronouns may not fit, and can create discomfort, stress and anxiety.

Why is it important to get pronouns right?​​​​​​​
When someone is referred to with a pronoun (e.g. he/she/they) that doesn’t align with their gender identity, it can make them feel alienated. Getting pronouns right is a basic way to respect a person’s gender identity.

​​​​​​​What can you do to help?​​​​​​​

  1. Ask if you’re not sure: Avoid making assumptions, and don’t be afraid to ask what their pronouns are if you’re not sure.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes: If you have trouble understanding why incorrect pronoun usage would upset someone, think about your own pronoun (likely “he” or “she”). Now imagine someone calling you the other one, over and over and over, even after you’ve corrected them.
  3. On the phone: Avoid making assumptions about gender based on someone’s voice. Ask how they would like to be addressed. If you make a mistake acknowledge it sincerely and apologise.
  4. Share your own pronouns: This encourages others to do the same and demonstrates that you understand the importance of sharing pronouns. It has become common in inclusive environments to add your gender pronouns in your social media bio’s and emails.
  5. Learn from your mistakes: If you make a mistake with someone’s pronouns, it’s OK to apologise and acknowledge your mistake.
  6. Learn more about pronouns: make LGBTQ+ friends, family and neighbours feel welcomed, valued and included.

​​​​​​​Using an individual’s correct pronouns, helps to build a truly inclusive and supportive world.
​​​​​​​We’re OPEN for feedback and ideas here: openstaffnetwork@originhousing.org.uk

-David Smith (he/him)