The Prose & Pros of Pronouns

4 younger people talking and smiling

Hi, my personal pronouns are She/Her/Hers.

But why?

One of my favorite times ever was a Thanksgiving spent lying on a couch, holding a six-month-old baby for about four hours. That new baby smell. That new baby warmth. That soft baby skin. Soon, that baby started to crawl, then walk, and come into their own. Then, about 12 years later, that beloved baby started to identify as non-binary. 

So, I have personal reasons to use my personal pronouns. And I love them now as a teen even more than I did that Thanksgiving Day. 

The “pro” of making personal pronouns use ordinary for everyone, is to help make a safe, welcoming place for that baby, for all former babies, as they grow up and make their way in the world.

Using people’s preferred pronouns matters a lot. As a cisgender woman, using my pronouns has been a steep learning curve to put into continuous practice, but a rewarding one—one I’m always wanting to embrace and keep in mind. 

What is gender anyway?

Gender is a complex mix of anatomy, hormones, socialization, cultural norms, and other factors. We, cisgender folks, take for granted that our anatomy matches our feelings and gender expression. We don’t, maybe, think of what it might mean and the impact it might have mentally on a person if it doesn’t. 

A 2019 study found that transgender participants who were able to go by their chosen name in at least one social context were 29% less likely to report suicidal ideation and 56% less likely to report suicidal behavior in the past year. 

Today, October 20, we celebrate the International Pronoun Day campaign, which encourages everyone of any gender to share their pronouns to support the day.

Prose is the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing. At Integral, we encourage team members to share their personal pronouns as part of their usernames on platforms such as Zoom, Slack, and email. I’m hoping that one person at a time we can make the deliberate use of pronouns part of our ordinary language. 

Why share personal pronouns

A recent Wall Street Journal article addressed the practice of sharing pronouns to provide proactive support to build a more diverse workplace. My experience with the handful of non-binary folks I know has been that they welcome the space. However, forcing people to share their pronouns isn’t useful either, since that could be stressful and anxiety-producing. There’s differing advice on how to handle personal pronoun use, so compassion and consideration around this are essential. 

When everyone—regardless of their gender/gender identity—uses personal pronouns, it normalizes the practice. It doesn’t make any identity “the other.” It’s a small but important step in creating a safe, inclusive space that recognizes, includes, and respects the humanity of all friends, family, colleagues, and humans.