Someone may choose to share their pronouns with you preemptively to let you know how you should refer to them. They might do this in an email signature, on a social media profile, or in a conversation with you.

Personal pronouns are the words we use in place of someone’s name. Think of this sentence: “Michael went to the store, and he found a beautiful hat to buy for himself.” We used the words “he” and “himself” in place of Michael’s name, so that we wouldn’t have to repeat his name a bunch of times.

Imagine a world without pronouns!

“Michael went to the store, and Michael found a beautiful hat to buy for Michael.” That’s a bit much.

When someone tells you their pronouns, you might be confused. That person might not “look” like they should use a certain word, or you might be confused as to why they would use one pronoun instead of another. Don’t worry, just trust that that person knows what’s best, and make an effort to refer to them the way they’ve asked you to. After all, it would be weird for us to refuse to call someone Michael because they didn’t “look like a Michael”. Pronouns are the same way.

If you make a mistake on somebody’s pronouns, don’t beat yourself up about it. It can be hard to remember sometimes. But the important thing is that you recognize your mistake, and try harder next time. If you find yourself messing up a lot, it might be good to let the person know privately that you’re aware of your mistakes, and that you’re going to try harder.

Everyone has a set of pronouns that they use for themselves. Next time you introduce yourself to somebody, try letting them know your pronouns. This can be a good way of making sure that people know how to refer to you respectfully.

To learn more about pronouns, check out these links: