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Pronouns of trans and non-binary people

Why are pronouns important for trans and non-binary people?

Pronouns are important for trans and non-binary people because they communicate the gender of an individual, especially to new people. Using the correct pronouns lets trans and non-binary people, amongst others, know that you respect their identity, in a world where people who do respect this are rare. Correctly gendering a person also puts them at ease, which is key for trans and non-binary people, or those who have a gender expression that differs from the norm.

What pronoun(s) should I use?

Everyone has a (or several) pronoun(s)! But how do we know which one we should use? It's simple, you just need to ask the person, instead of trying to guess based on visual cues or the person's gender expression.


Some people have a pin indicating their pronoun(s), but to use this means that the situation has to be a minimum safe for the person to wear it.

Asking for someone's pronoun(s)

What are your pronouns?

This is the question you can ask to find out which pronoun(s) a person uses. Often we try to make an inference based on a multitude of factors (physical appearance, clothing, hairstyle, etc.) to decide which pronoun to use. This is not something to continue doing, as it can often lead to errors in the pronouns of trans or non-binary people, or those who have a diverse gender expression. So, it's better to ask people, to give them the opportunity to share with you the pronoun(s) they use. Then, all that's left to do is use the pronoun(s) they have shared with you!

What is misgendering?

Misgendering, or to misgender someone, is using one or more pronouns which are not those which the person uses. For example, saying she is beautiful! about a person that goes by he/him pronouns.

This especially happens to trans and non-binary people. Misgendering someone can upset them, and can even cause psychological distress, especially when it happens several times. When this is done voluntarily, or when there is not a clear effort to correct it and to not misgender the person in the future, this tells the person that you don't respect their identity. Using the wrong pronoun, and hence misgendering someone, happens sometimes, especially when you don't know what pronoun a person uses. This becomes more serious when you know their correct pronoun(s) but continue using the wrong one(s).

What to do when you make a mistake

We are all human, mistakes happen. But what do we do when they do happen?

If you are correcting yourself

If you realize you've made an error, there are three steps:

  1. Stop
  2. Apologize: briefly apologize, without making a scene
  3. Correct yourself and move forwards: restart your sentence using the correct pronoun(s), and continue on with your discussion

If someone else corrects you

If another person corrects you, the steps are very similar to those you would follow if you were correcting yourself:

  1. Stop
  2. Thank the person who has corrected you: briefly thank the person who corrected you to show that you understand and appreciate that they corrected you
  3. Correct yourself and move forwards: restart your sentence using the correct pronoun(s), and continue on with your discussion

Mistakes happen, to everyone. The most important thing is to correct yourself and to make sure not to repeat the same errors in the future.

How to stop misgendering someone

The pronouns we use for someone are mostly a force of habit. If someone close to us comes out and changes their pronouns, it can be complicated in the beginning to change the pronoun we use to refer to them. But this is not a reason to continue using the wrong pronoun to refer to someone.

So how do we break this habit? Practice! If you know that you should use a new pronoun for someone, you can try creating sentences about them, in your head or written down, using the correct pronoun.

For example, if the person uses the pronoun they, you could say or write "they are watching football with their mother". With repetition, it will become easier to create a new habit, and it will be easier to correctly gender them! It is very important to make an effort to use the correct pronouns to speak about others.