Info: Deadnaming

Teen Vogue: All Your Questions About Gender Neutral Pronouns Answered

Video: Why Pronouns are Important


Preferred Gender Pronouns

In general, a pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (I, me, you) or someone or something that is being talked about (he, she, it, them, this). Gender pronouns (he, him, his, she, her, hers, them, their) specifically refer to people that you are talking about.

Traditionally, these gender pronouns are matched with people accordingly: Men/males are referred to by "he/him/his" and women/females are referred to by "she/her/hers."  Sometimes, however, a person whose gender is fluid may prefer an opposite pronoun.  In such cases a man/male may prefer "she/her/hers" and a woman/female may prefer "he/him/his."  These are called preferred gender pronouns (PGP).


Some people may choose to use pronouns that are neither masculine or feminine.  In such cases a person may prefer the singular they by using "them/they/their."  Or they may prefer "ze/zem/zir."  These are called gender neutral pronouns (or gender inclusive pronouns). They are used to show respect to individuals and groups whose gender identity is non-binary, non-conforming, or fluid.


A preferred gender pronoun (PGP) is the pronoun that a person considers to be the correct pronoun and chooses to use for himself/herself/themself. For example: If Linda's preferred pronouns are she/her/hers, you could say "Linda ate her food because she was hungry." Or if Linda's preferred pronouns are them/they/their, you could say "Linda ate their food because they was hungry."

"She, her, hers" and "he, him, his" are the most commonly used pronouns. Some people call these female/feminine and male/masculine pronouns. But many avoid these labels because, for example, not everyone who uses "he" feels like a male or masculine.  And not everyone who uses "she" feels like a female or feminine.

Being a Trans Ally: Preferred Gender Pronouns

Info: Deadnaming

Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used to It

NY Times: What's In a Gender Pronoun?

Info: Respectful Language

Video: Discussing Pronouns

Washington Post: The Pronoun They

Gender Pronoun Resources

Info: Transgender



Gender Neutral Pronouns


A gender-neutral pronoun or gender-inclusive pronoun is one that gives no implications about gender, and could be used for someone of any gender. People with non-binary gender identities often choose new or unique third-person pronouns for themselves as part of their transition. They often choose gender-neutral pronouns so that others won't see them as female or male.  Examples include: "them/they/their" or "ze/zem/zir."

For people who identify as transgender, style guides and associations of journalists and health professionals advise use of the pronoun preferred or considered appropriate by the person in question. When dealing with clients or patients, health practitioners are advised to take note of the pronouns used by the individuals themselves, which may involve using different pronouns at different times. This is also extended to the name preferred by the person concerned. LGBTQ advocacy groups also advise using the pronouns and names preferred or considered appropriate by the person concerned.


Why is it important to respect people's PGPs? You can't always know what someone’s PGP is by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone's preferred pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric. It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else's gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.


Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used to It

NY Times: What's In a Gender Pronoun?

Wikipedia: Gender Pronouns

Info: Respectful Language

LGBTQ Resource Center: Gender Pronouns

Preferred Gender Pronouns: Guide for Faculty, Staff, and Allies

Washington Post: The Pronoun They

Gender Pronoun Resources

Gender Neutral Terms We Should Be Using

Info: Gender Queer



The use of gender neutral pronouns typically involves the replacement of gender-specific pronouns (he, she, him, her, his, her) with pronouns that are more generic or inclusive. While there are many variations in use, here is a popular example:

--He/She  -  Ze or Zie (pronounced Zee)
--Him/Her  -  Zem or Zim (pronounced Zem and Zim)
--His/Her  -  Zir or Hir (pronounced Zeer and Heer)

Ze and Hir are popular alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some transgender people. Pronounced zee and heer, they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively some people who are not comfortable with and do not embrace he/she pronouns, may use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.

Mx. is an alternate title for Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms. that is gender neutral and preferred by some transgender people.

She Her Her/Hers Herself
He Him His Himself
Ze/Xe Zir/Zyr Zir/Zirs Zirself
E/Ey Em Eir/Eirs Eirself/Emself
Per Per Per/Pers Perself
Hu Hum Hus/Hus Humself


Being a Trans Ally: Preferred Gender Pronouns

Info: Deadnaming

Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used to It

NY Times: What's In a Gender Pronoun?

Gender Neutral Communication

Video: Discussing Pronouns

Washington Post: The Pronoun They

Language of Gender

Gender Pronoun Resources

Info: Transgender



Pronouns and More

It should be noted that the use of preferred gender pronouns is just part of the overall effort to show respect to transgender and gender non-conforming people through the use of language.


Using pronouns in conversation is typically a matter of talking ABOUT (making a reference to) a transgender or gender non-conforming person.  While the transgender or gender non-conforming person may be within earshot of the conversation, generally they are not present.


There are other language considerations that might arise when the situation is a matter of talking TO or WITH (personally addressing) a transgender or gender non-conforming person. In such circumstances, when the transgender or gender non-conforming person is part of the interaction, one should be aware of any number of words, terms, and phrases that communicate an understanding of specific gender...


Sir/Ma'am...  Guy/Gal...  Man/Woman...  Boy/Girl...  Gentleman/Lady...  Dad/Mom...  Bro/Sis...


Gender Neutral Terms


Oftentimes, it is best to use gender-neutral terms instead of gender-specific terms.  There are plenty of reasonable alternatives you can use that make no reference to gender...  Clerk... Staff... Crew... Team... Member... Assistant... Associate... Persons... Folks...


Person/Individual (Instead of Man)

People (Instead of Men)

Humankind/Humanity (Instead of Mankind)

Partner/Significant Other (Instead of Boyfriend, Girlfriend)

Spouse/Partner (Instead of Husband, Wife)

First-Year Student (Instead of Freshman)

Artificial/Synthetic (Instead of Man-Made)

Face-to-Face (Instead of Man-to-Man)

Parent (Instead of Mother, Father)

Sibling (Instead of Brother, Sister)

Child (Instead of Son, Daughter)

Chair (Instead of Chairman)

Police Officer (Instead of Policeman)

Firefighter (Instead of Fireman)

Actor (Instead of Actress)

Flight Attendant (Instead of Stewardess)

Sales Representative/Rep/Associate (Instead of Salesman)

Mail Carrier (Instead of Mailman)

Server (Instead of Waitress)

Spokesperson (Instead of Spokesman)

Workers (Instead of Workmen, Men at Work)

Anchor (Instead of Anchorman)

Business Person/Professional (Instead of Businessman)

Legislator/Representative (Instead of Congressman)

Council Member (Instead of Councilman)

Soldiers/Sailors/Pilots (Instead of Men & Women of the Military)

Founder (Instead of Founding Father)

Tailor (Instead of Seamstress)

Artisan (Instead of Craftsman)

Cave Dweller (Instead of Caveman)


Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used to It

NY Times: What's In a Gender Pronoun?

Gender Neutral Communication

Video: Discussing Pronouns

Gender Neutral Word List

Washington Post: The Pronoun They

Gender Neutral Terms We Should Be Using

Language of Gender




Reciprocity and Understanding


We expect that cis/straight allies are sincere in their effort to extend respect and affirmation to transgender and genderqueer people. We expect that they understand why it is important to use the proper pronouns and the proper name when referring to or interacting with a transgender or genderqueer person. We expect that they are aware of the harm that can be done when someone deadnames a trans person or uses the wrong pronouns.  And we expect that they are trying their best to do the right thing on behalf of transgender and genderqueer people.


In the spirit of reciprocity, we also expect that transgender and genderqueer people will extend the same courtesy and respect to cis/straight allies.  We expect that transgender and genderqueer people will be patient and understanding of mistakes and mis-steps made by cis/straight allies.  We expect that they are aware that cis/straight allies, while sincere in the effort to offer support and affirmation, are not perfect and that they will sometimes make mistakes.  We expect that transgender and genderqueer people understand that such errors by cis/straight allies are unintentional and accidental.


Please remember, cis/straight allies are friends of the LGBTQ community. They are not hostile, mean-spirited, judgmental, or callous, but, in fact, seek to be respectful, empathetic, and supportive regarding LGBTQ people. They are not ignorant or uniformed, but, in fact, are very educated regarding LGBTQ issues and concerns. But they are also human, they are flawed, and they are not perfect. Cut them some slack. They do not need to be regarded in the same light as those who purposefully, intentionally, and with conscious malice, cause distress to LGBTQ people. Such anti-LGBTQ people are ignorant and hateful and typically hold unhealthy attitudes and dangerous beliefs regarding LGBTQ people. 


How to be a Trans Ally
Basic Trans Ally Manners

Info: LGBTQ Straight Allies

Cis and Flawed: Being a Good Trans Ally
Being a Trans Ally

Info: Deadnaming


Pronouns, Inclusivity, Respect

Candace Gingrich, HRC's Associate Director of Youth & Campus Engagement, says that "using preferred gender pronouns is less about extending courtesy than of practicing basic human dignity."

If you are part of an LGBTQ support group or a gay-straight student alliance, one way to make sure that you are being inclusive and welcoming for transgender or other gender nonconforming people is to incorporate PGPs into your regular intro activities. If you start every meeting by having those present share their names, ask them to share their PGPs as well.


For example:


My name is Jasmine, I’m a sophomore, and my PGPs are ‘she’ and ‘her’

Hi, I’m Diego, I’m 17, a senior, and my preferred gender pronouns are ‘he’, ‘him’, and ‘his’

In social interactions, simple questions, like these, will communicate respect and acceptance:

What pronouns do you use?
How would you like me to refer to you?
How would you like to be addressed?
Can you remind me which pronouns you like for yourself?
My name is Tom and my pronouns are he and him. What about you?

Buttons and stickers are useful tools for groups to use. Name tags (the peel and stick kind) can be utilized at conferences, meetings, and social events to clarify pronouns.

Hello My Name is.....  My Preferred Pronouns are....


In some organizations and offices, staff members may incorporate their PGPs in the signature block of their e-mail messages, as in this example:

Sally Smith
Director of Counseling Services
University of Anywhere
123 Main Street, Anywhere USA 12345
555-1212 / smith@email.com
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

A note like this one could be included in the footer of an e-mail or business correspondence: "Self-expression and self-identification are among my professional and personal values. One way to practice these values is to share preferred gender pronouns. My name is Samuel and I use she/her pronouns. What pronouns do you use?"

Some people prefer that you use gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns when talking to or about them. In English, the most commonly used singular gender neutral pronouns are ze (sometimes spelled zie) and hir. “Ze” is the subject pronoun and is pronounced zee, and “hir” is the object and possessive pronoun and is pronounced heer. This is how they are used: “Chris is the tallest person in class, and ze is also the fastest runner.” “Sarah is going to Hawaii over spring break with hir parents. I’m so jealous of hir.”



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