About LGBTQIA and Use of Pronouns
A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay or as gay women.
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex. Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women.
A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms— including transgender. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.
An adjective used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them. Some people may use queer, or genderqueer, to describe their gender identity and/or gender expression. Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBTQ people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBTQ community.
Sometimes, when the Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it can also mean questioning. This term describes someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Used for individuals who don’t fit into specific gender norms of woman or man; can also be used for those with reproductive anatomy that isn’t biologically typical.
Uses for those who don’t feel sexual attraction to either sex or that don’t feel romantic attraction in the typical way.
Why They Matter
Often used during introductions or while referencing someone during a conversation, pronouns help you know how someone would like to be addressed in any given situation.
Pronouns & Gender Identity—Ask, Don’t Assume!
Gender identity is our internal, individual experience of gender. It is directly linked to our sense of self and the sense of being male, female, both or neither.
While pronouns are pivotal to an individual’s gender identity and how they relate to the world and others, it is important to keep in mind that a person’s pronouns are not exclusively linked to gender and may not match your perception of that individual. Your assumption can leave a person feeling invalidated and dismissed. Taking the time to get to know a person better will help everyone feel more connected and respected.
Remember, mistakes happen and that’s ok! Acknowledge your mistake the same as you would any other—recognize, apologize and move on.
When in doubt, use neutral pronouns (they/them) when referencing someone until you have a chance to ask. Like with anything worth doing, practice makes perfect and your efforts will be appreciated. Until we can ask an individual or a group of people how they identify, we default to neutral language.
Here are a few ways you can be more inclusive and affirming when it comes to pronouns:
Share your pronouns when introducing yourself. For example: “My name is Patrick and I use they/them pronouns.”
Include your pronouns in your email signature, on name tags at events, in your zoom name, and on your social media bio.
When addressing groups of people or people whose pronouns have not been shared with you, use gender neutral language such as “elle” instead of “el” or “ella,” “siblings,” “students,” “all” or “folks” rather than “brothers and sisters,” “guys,” “sir,” etc.
Putting pronouns into practice shows your commitment to building an affirming space for all types of identities and experiences. We encourage you to use and share these tips.