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Let's Learn: Pronouns

Importance of Pronouns

Professional organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association recognize that usage of inclusive language for LGBTQ+ youth and adults drastically decreases experiences of depression, social anxiety, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues.

The use of pronouns is important because it allows inclusiveness, respect, and creates healthy environments. While pronouns are useful tools, it is important to remember that some people use different pronouns in different situations, and some may not use them at all. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (often all of the above).

Preferred Pronouns & Gender Expression

With gender identity, preferred pronouns serve as signifiers on how to address and define the person, regardless of assigned sex. You can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity.

According to LGBTQ education organization GLAAD, “gender expression is the ‘external’ manifestations of gender, expressed through a person's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, and/or body characteristics."

For example: A buzz haircut has been historically linked to masculine hairstyles, while wearing dresses are linked to being feminine. Just because a person displays one gender expression does not necessarily mean the expected pronouns should follow. A cisgender woman may display a masculine expression, but still prefer she, her, hers pronouns.

However, some people may not be ready to publicly share their pronouns, so if someone does not supply them in front of a group, try asking in a more private setting. Asking someone “Can I use these pronouns for you in front of other people?” is a good way of making sure you do not accidently out or misrepresent someone.

What Are Pronouns?

Pronouns are short words that people use to refer to individuals when not using their name.

For more resources, check out the following:

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