In the English-speaking world, as in many other languages, traditionally we have had only two pronouns to refer to someone – him/his, or she/her – gendered words that are used to refer to people when not using their names. But what about people who identify as gender non-conforming? Whose gender may not align with expected societal markers of “male” and “female”, such as dress, appearance or voice? 

There is a whole array of gender-neutral pronouns that can replace the typical gendered he/she, such as they/them, ze/hir, and many more. People usually think long and hard about what pronouns best suit them, and ignoring their preferences is a sign of disrespect, and continued misgendering can have profound impacts on people’s wellbeing.

That’s where the push to shake up our views and actions on using pronouns comes from. 

The third Wednesday of October each year has been marked as International Pronouns Day. It’s a simple way that we can raise awareness and spur action to make respecting personal pronouns commonplace. 

When we take the time to ask and use someone’s preferred personal pronouns, we are celebrating the multiple, intersecting aspect of their identity and making a commitment to acknowledging and respecting how they identify. So, this October, take some time to learn more if you need to, commit to asking people how they refer to themselves, and educate others in your world about this simple yet important aspect of identity.

Resources that can help you learn more and educate others: