A Message about Gender Inclusive Pronouns
One of Bottom Line’s core commitments is to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. As both a service provider and employer, we not only want people to be comfortable being themselves, but also to be celebrated for their identities and what makes them unique. In addition, we try to build a culture where we don’t make assumptions or pass judgment on each other. So if a person chooses to tell you their pronouns (in their signature line or otherwise), they are simply letting you know how you can refer to them, without you having to make any assumptions.
What are Pronouns (or “Gender Pronouns” / “Preferred Gender Pronouns”)?
Pronouns are used in language all the time when we refer to ourselves or other people. Examples of pronouns you might use refer to others are:
- he/him/his (for someone who might identify as male),
- she/her/hers (for someone who might identify as female),
- they/them/their (for someone who might not identify strictly as male or female, these pronouns are considered ‘gender neutral’; also used when referring to multiple people).
Why would someone add their pronouns to their signature line?
Typically, society has taught us to make automatic assumptions about what pronouns to use for someone. If a person’s gender expression (the way they appear in terms of gender) seems to be male, we’d likely use he/him/his when talking about that person; if a person’s appearance seems to be female, we’d be likely to use she/her/hers. However, gender is not always that simple. Sometimes a person’s gender identity (the way the person identifies internally in terms of their gender) doesn’t align with their gender expression (the way they look). In addition, not everyone identifies strictly as male or female. So when a person includes their gender pronouns on their email signature line (or on a nametag, when introducing themselves, etc.), they are simply taking the guesswork away for you! It’s their way of saying “when you refer to me using pronouns (opposed to by my name), these are the pronouns I’d like for you to use.”
If someone feels the need to state their pronouns, does it mean they are transgender and/or gender non-conforming?
Not at all. Everyone has a gender identity, and most of us have specific pronouns we’d like people to use when we are being referred to. Some might ask: Isn’t it typically obvious what pronouns to use for a person? (For instance, if someone has a ‘female’ name and looks ‘female,’ then can’t one assume that person identifies as female and would want to be referred to with she/her/hers pronouns?) To answer that question, yes, most of us are privileged in that when someone guesses our pronouns, they’ll get them right. However, that’s not the case for everyone. Oftentimes this might be because a person is gender non-conforming (where they don’t clearly conform to ‘traditional’ male or female standards) or are openly transgender (which might also leave some unsure which pronouns to use). With that said, if someone decides to tell you their pronouns, it does not automatically mean they are transgender or gender non-conforming. It’s basically a way of saying “rather than operating in a system where we assume each other’s gender and automatically attach pronouns to each other, I’ll instead let you know what pronouns work best for me.” Isn’t life easier when we’re not always having to assume things about each other?