Asking Others Their Pronouns
How do I ask someone their personal pronouns?
First, make sure that you have shared your own pronouns. Doing so is the best way to encourage other people to share their pronouns, to help make them more comfortable to share their pronouns with you.
If you are meeting someone new one-to-one, you might say something like: “Hi, I’m Akeem, and I go by ‘they’ pronouns. How should I refer to you?” Of course, if you are meeting someone who isn’t familiar with sharing personal pronouns, be prepared to explain that people often make assumptions about whether someone goes by “he” or “she” or another set of pronouns (e.g. “they” or “ze”) based on their appearance, and that the only way to really know how someone will feel respected is to ask what pronouns they go by. Usually offering up that the vast majority of people either go by “he” or by “she” helps indicate to the other person what the typical response is that they might give.
We don’t recommend ever forcing people to share their pronouns. However, people could be invited or encouraged to do so. In a group setting where you are a leader, here is one example of how you could conduct a round of introductions:
“Welcome to our meeting. Before we begin, we’d like to go around and share our names and personal pronouns. For those who haven’t done this before, this is a way that we can avoid assumptions, particularly about gender. What may seem obvious may actually be incorrect, and please keep in mind that while many people associate “he” or “she” as meaning men or women, respectively, this isn’t always the case. This is not about sharing your gender or private information, that is not what I’m asking for. I’m only asking for which pronouns you want to be referred to by, because these are a part of the English language in how we typically refer to people. So, for most people, that means they either go by 'she' and 'her' pronouns or they go by 'he' and 'him' pronouns. Some people go by 'they' and 'them' pronouns or another set of pronouns or another way of being referred to. However, for most people in this room you’d simply say something like 'Hi, I’m Lesley and I go by "he" pronouns' or 'Hi, I’m Jamie and I go by "she" pronouns' and then turn to the next person. If you don’t understand what I'm asking, or if you feel that you are uncomfortable sharing or unable to participate in a respectful way, it's okay to just share your name. But if you feel comfortable to share, and you know that typically you go by a certain set of pronouns and are good with that, let us know. Please also keep in mind that what people in this room share today is just what people are sharing today in this space and time, and that people may change their names or pronouns or go by different ones in another space. Does anyone have a question before we begin our introductions?”
Please note that it may be helpful to also have a conversation with the group about how to utilize various pronouns correctly (particularly pronouns sets they may be less familiar with), perhaps also referring them to this website or other resources.
For additional ideas, be sure to check out the additional links and videos on our resources page.