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Preferred-gender pronouns: SaGA letter to the editor

< the Editor:

Maybe you saw a poster around campus asking “Which pronoun do you prefer?” Maybe you read about preferred-gender pronouns in The CLAP. Maybe you’re confused about what a preferred pronoun would be and just want to know more. Whatever it is, here’s the story behind the posters and the campaign about pronouns.

We—the Sexuality and Gender Activism Club, or SaGA—started this campaign earlier this year in response to people feeling like they were being misidentified regarding gender pronouns. We also heard about some hesitation in addressing gender ambiguous people period, given fears about using the wrong pronoun and offending someone.

We share in these concerns, but think that there are ways to address the issue of gender pronouns constructively.

When we we use pronouns like “she” or “he” to identify a person, we might be making an assumption about that person’s gender that differs from their preferred gender identity. Some people express their gender identity ambiguously, meaning you might not know which pronoun to use just by looking at them and have to make an assumption. For other people, appearances can be deceiving– even people who clearly look to be one gender may identify as a different gender than you would assume. When someone has a different gender identity than you would assume that means a different pronoun.

So, how do we avoid making incorrect assumptions about gender pronouns? ASK! Or, use gender-neutral pronouns, like “they” or “them.” 

We get that asking for people’s pronouns could be awkward. Here are some tips to become more at ease in asking people’s preferred gender pronouns:

1. Make it a regular part of club meetings in introductions. For example: “Hi, my name is Friedrich von Schiller, I’m from Germany, Poetry major, and I prefer the pronouns he/him.

2. Simply ask: “Do you have a preferred pronoun?”

3. If you are in a group setting, stating preferred gender pronouns may make some people confused, so explain why you’re doing it.

4. Don’t expect that if you ask once, you’re set forever — people’s (gender) identities can change, so check in!

We hope that this small primer helped to answer a few of the questions we’ve gotten in response to our poster campaign. We think the goal, above all, for asking preferred gender pronouns is to make the campus more inclusive and comfortable for all.


The Sexuality and Gender Activism Club

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