LGBTQIA Faculty/Staff Resources

Normalizing Pronouns

Normalizing pronouns and using correct pronouns leads to the acceptance and de-stigmatization of individuals who "deviate" from traditionally used pronouns or pronouns that do not align with their physical appearance or gender-based name. Likewise, it takes away the assumption that pronouns are only used by Transgender individuals.

By stating one's pronouns, the need for explanation behind an individual's correct pronouns is eliminated, as well as the idea that a person's pronouns can be assumed based off their physical appearance or given name. When allys of the LGBTQIA+ community take part in this practice, they signal to Queer individuals that they are an ally as well as open up the conversation for a Queer individual to share their identity back.

Additionally, allys of the Queer community, particularly those that identify as cis-gender, should use / post their pronouns in introductions and bios to communicate to students (and others) that sharing one's pronouns is "normal." It also invites students to do the same, and signals that Queer students have a safe space to share their identity and be validated. 

Note* as seen in the above passage, pronouns they | them | theirs can be used in the singular form, meaning for a single individual, if a person's gender is unknown. It is a gender-neutral and inclusive language practice, backed in the theory of descriptive grammar and Queer pedagogy.

Common Questions

What is a pronoun? What are the gender pronouns?

A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (I or you) or someone or something that is being talked about (she, it, them, and this). Gender pronouns (she/he/they, etc.) specifically refer to people that are being talked about.

What do I do if I misgender a student? 

A quick correction validates that you clearly made a verbal misstep, and not some deeper level of invalidating the student’s gender identity. 

  • Ex: I know Tyler, I first met him- I mean, I met her at the park. 

Do I apologize if I misgender a student?

Do not apologize. An apology puts the responsibility on the misgendered student to make you feel better rather than centering the response on the feelings of the person impacted. 

How do I ask someone for their pronouns? 

This question is important and something that needs to be normalized. It can be as simple as:

  • Ex: What are your pronouns, and how would you like me to address you? 

  • Ex: Would you mind telling me your pronouns? It’s important to me that I know I’m addressing you by the correct ones.

When should I step in if someone else misgenders a student? 

Quick answer (if it’s known information that they’re LGBTQ+), always.

Make it a habit to be quick. The faster you get at correcting, the less you’ll struggle with the internal complexities of ‘should I, or shouldn't I?’ The answer is always yes.

  • Student 1: When I need help, he always- 

    • Professor: They always…

    • Student 1: Thank you, they always help me. 

*Note if you know a student's correct pronouns, but they may not have shared them in class and only with you specifically, make sure you ask the student before correcting a speaker in public. You never want to out a student before they are ready to come out to others.

Where can I list my pronouns?

  • Nametag
  • Introductions (you can simply tell people your pronouns)
  • Zoom Name (ex: Your Name (she/her, he/him, they/them))
  • Email Signature
  • Your UNCW Faculty or Syllabus Bio
  • Social Media