Preferred Pronouns

The display, request, or offering of preferred gender pronouns (PGPs), especially in professional environments, is seen as considerate by some and objectionable by others.

Preferred pronouns are usually written as she/her, he/him, and they/them. Gender pronouns are often displayed prominently by transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, or gender-nonconforming individuals to inform others of how they would like to be addressed. In some settings, cisgender people also display their pronouns to normalize acceptance of or to support gender-nonconforming people.   

Those who support the practice of stating preferred gender pronouns sometimes offer this information while introducing  themselves or by placing their pronouns in their social media profiles, Zoom usernames, and email signatures. Some universities and companies also sometimes ask or require people to state their gender pronouns in introductions or email signatures. Others object to these practices, arguing that pronouns correspond to biological sex, and that requiring people to state their preferred pronouns affirms gender ideology, or the idea that gender/sex is fluid or changeable, which they do not agree with. Some states, such as Florida, have banned the solicitation or forced use of pronouns that do not correspond to biological sex in schools.

Those who support the practice of stating pronouns do so because they believe it creates a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals. They believe that normalizing the practice of stating pronouns is helpful for making discussions, schools, and workplaces more accepting of LGBTQ classmates and coworkers. Proponents of stating pronouns typically believe it is wrong to assume someone’s gender identity simply from judging their appearance. Proponents of stating preferred pronouns seek to minimize harm by avoiding incorrectly assuming gender identities, which they say may trigger or deepen the gender dysphoria experienced by trans and nonbinary people.  They also argue that  using trans youths’ chosen names and pronouns can help reduce their risk of depression and suicide.  They also argue increasingly androgynous fashion trends mean it is wise not to make gender assumptions. 

Those who are against normalizing the use of  preferred pronouns believe it represents a harmful ideology and invalidates biological gender/sex. They believe the practice is pressuring people to subscribe to gender ideology, which they see as invalid or unscientific, arguing there are only two genders: male and female. Some also take issue with social media content moderation policies that punish the intentional use of a person’s non-preferred pronouns, arguing it restricts free speech, requires people to lie, and encourages the false idea that denies biological sex and holds that gender can be changed or chosen. To those who object to stating preferred pronouns, sex and gender are inextricably linked, and gender is largely determined by physical/biological traits and cannot be changed by simply identifying with another gender. In this view, preferred gender pronouns only blur objective truth and encourage an ideology that leads to confusion and mental distress. They argue the moral implications of ignoring biological gender only fuel personal insecurity, depression, and higher suicide rates among youth. Moreover, some find they/them pronouns to be grammatically incorrect, arguing that “they” can only refer to multiple people and should not be used as a singular pronoun. 

Some liberal opponents to normalizing the declaration of preferred pronouns worry the practice may force closeted transgender and nonbinary people into a difficult decision: to assume a pronoun they are uncomfortable with, or to publicly out themselves when they are not ready. Furthermore, while they/them pronouns are commonly used as a term for those who do not wish to fit into male or female gender roles, some in the LGBTQ community view they/them pronouns as having a more specific meaning unique to nonbinary individuals specifically, and argue that they/them pronouns should therefore not be used as a catch-all. Some also argue that the emphasis on pronouns reinforces gender stereotypes, as it may overly emphasize the importance of gender as a social construct.