Gender Pronouns Aren’t New, But They’re Suddenly Important. Here’s What To Know

gender pronouns

As you browse LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, maybe even TikTok, the people on those apps and websites have started including their pronouns in their bios and personal profiles. Social media is ever-evolving so, as they/them or she/they or he/they become more common, it may also be confusing to see pronouns taking the spotlight.

Today I’m going to explain the function of pronouns, how pronouns grew to include the singular use of they/them, and why pronouns are important to establish as soon as possible for the comfort of everyone.

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Ok, so what are pronouns?

 
 
 
 
 
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Let’s think back to our grade school English classes and ask, what are pronouns? Merriam-Webster defines a pronoun as “any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context.” Basically, pronouns help us distinguish within a conversation or written word the people we are discussing without having to use their full name every time. Most people have found the emergence of they/them pronouns startling because they/them has typically been used for a group of people, but the singular they/them pronoun has been in use since Chaucer’s times. 

Switching from English class to Gender Studies, there are those who behave and feel comfortable within the gender that they were assigned at birth (male or female) while others do not. Male and female gender and presentations have long been thought of as a binary — certain attributes like toughness and taking action are thought of as male, while softness and modesty are more feminine. Looking beyond character traits, there is also the matter of identity and how we perceive ourselves and others. For those that are transgender or gender non-conforming, asserting which pronouns to use for them is a way of affirming their identity and how they understand themselves as they interact with the world.


What other terminology should I know?

 
 
 
 
 
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Gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer. These can seem like a lot of words that are somehow vague and way too specific at the same time if you are just now hearing about them. You may be asking yourself questions like, why can’t people just be the way they are instead of creating new words? Or maybe the idea that someone can experience who they are outside of masculinity and femininity does not compute, and maybe it seems like a barrage of overwhelming information. 

The term “gender non-conforming” is an umbrella term for those who don’t experience their gender identity as conforming to either masculine or feminine. One of the things that helps them feel more connected to themselves and their own body is using they/them pronouns, because those pronouns are not gendered. It has become important to put pronouns in social media bios or to ask for pronouns during introductions because as the old saying goes, you will never have another first impression. When we meet people, we consciously and subconsciously pick up or read many things about them such as hygiene, personality, and how they present themselves. So, to mitigate any assumptions, gender non-conforming people often find it best to put the pronouns they feel most comfortable with in bios, social media profiles, and at the start of work meetings.


Why should I use someone’s self-identified gender pronouns?

 
 
 
 
 
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Pronouns are a part of speech that has not garnered much thought until recent years, but that doesn’t mean they should be disregarded. When people feel comfortable and respected, they are engaged, present, and can focus on the interaction rather than on how someone made them feel or how someone is pushing their own view of how they should behave or present themselves. Because that is what the importance of pronouns can be boiled down to — a person asserting how they want to be referred to is just as important as their name. 

Respecting pronouns, even if they may not make sense to you, helps everyone be on the same page and gives a person the respect they deserve. 

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We hope this article was helpful to your understanding of the importance of gender pronouns! Did you learn something new about pronouns today? Let us know in the comments!


About Brit Alexandria

gender pronouns

Brit Alexandria (they/them) is a writer, content creator, and coffee educator based in Williamsburg, VA. They have been living and writing online since 2006, and have worked in coffee since 2017. After years of working in coffee, they realized that they wanted a space to talk about coffee, gender, and provide resources to marginalized coffee people so they started the website, The Non-Binary Barista, in January 2020. When they aren’t writing, they are watching period films or brewing coffee and tea.


IG: @bloggerbrit

Website: The Non-Binary Barista


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