What are pronouns, and why are they important?

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

One way to create a welcoming environment for others is to educate yourself on pronouns and apply this knowledge to your everyday life. Using correct pronouns is a necessary aspect of inclusion. There is a lot to learn about when it comes to pronouns, but doing this research is essential.

What are pronouns?

Even if you have never given pronouns a second thought, they are a part of our lives. We use pronouns every day in place of names when referring to others.

The pronouns “he/him” and “she/her” tend to be associated with gender. “He/him” pronouns are often used to refer to men, while “she/her” pronouns are used for women. When people hear these pronouns, they assume the gender of another person, but this is not accurate in every case. Gender does not always determine the pronouns a person prefers to use.

Many non-binary individuals use the pronouns “they/them.” There are plenty of other gender-neutral pronouns they might prefer, such as “ze/hir.”

Learning and using the pronouns a person prefers is not optional.

If someone asks you to use particular pronouns, you need to do so. If you ignore this request, you are being disrespectful. Some people will not be ready to share their pronouns with you. They may be in the process of figuring out which ones suit them best, and others want to keep this information to themselves. It is also possible for a person to prefer no pronouns.

When someone does not feel like sharing their pronouns, it is best to use gender-neutral pronouns. If they are ready to share them with you, you must use the pronouns they request. You may slip up, but try to do better going forward. Misgendering others or referring to them with incorrect pronouns is unkind. If you do so by accident, be sure to apologize and move on.

Why is it important to use correct pronouns?

Pronouns are not just words; they are a part of our identities. Using the pronouns a person prefers shows that you accept and respect who they are. Intentionally using the wrong pronouns is harmful and oppressive. Keep in mind that some individuals may use different pronouns around different groups of people. Try and clear this up so that you do not accidentally “out” them to others.

Being sure to use preferred pronouns is one way to be an ally. Allies can further show their support by proudly displaying their pronouns through email signatures, name tags, and business cards. It can also be a good idea to create a habit of using your pronouns when introducing yourself. Doing so can show others that you are an accepting person and that your space is safe. It can also encourage others to share their pronouns with you.  

Here at Inner Balance, we understand the importance of pronouns. Our LGBTQIA+ team wants to help you feel comfortable, and we know that part of doing so means using the preferred pronouns of each of our clients. Our goal is to take the fear out of therapy and make sure you receive the best care possible.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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