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Gender Pronouns Guide

Not everything is as it seems when addressing or talking about a person, especially trans*, non-binary, and genderqueer people. It is important to make sure that you respect everyone you come in contact with by using the correct pronouns. 

How Do I know Which Pronouns to Use?

Asking is always the best policy. Most people will tell you their pronouns because they want you to use them. If you're feeling awkward, try and introduce your name and pronouns first.

Ex: "My name is Mick. My pronouns are 'she' and 'her.' What about you?"

Neutralizing Language

Using gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs) for everyone whose pronouns you aren't sure of is an excellent practice to warming up to using people's pronouns. for example, if you are in a coffee shop and were to notice someone had left a coat on the chair, you might say, "Hey, someone left their coat on the chair. Does anyone know them? Did they leave without it?" Not imposing gendered pronouns on people you don't know is a helpful tactic to using gender-neutral pronouns.

Mistakes Are Good, They Help You Grow

If you make a mistake, all you have to do is apologize and correct.

Ex: "Jett says that she--sorry. They are going to the party tonight."

Try your best not to make an event out of misgendering someone, because it can put a lot more embarrassment and gender dysphoria on the person you have misgendered. it's okay to make mistakes, but it is important to not create a dialogue that leads to the trans* person trying to console you for misgendering them.

Correcting Others

As an ally of the trans and non-binary community, you should be an advocate for that person's pronouns, especially when they are not present to correct someone. The best way to avoid major conflict when someone gets misgendered is to correct the mistake and then continue with the conversation

Ex: "I think Lily's pronouns are 'they,' but yes, they are going to the movies with John."

It doesn't have to be a fight; it just has to be addressed and corrected. 

Here is a helpful chart for determining how to use some pronouns which you may be unsure about:

Nominative
(Subject)
Objective
(Object)
Possessive
Determiner
Possessive
Pronoun
Reflexive
He/Him/His He laughed I called him His eyes gleam That is his He likes himself
She/Her/  Hers She laughed I called her Her eyes gleam That is hers She likes herself
They/ Them/
Theirs
They laughed I called  them Their eyes gleam That is theirs They like  themselves
Ze (or zie) and hir Ze laughed ("zee") I called hir 
("heer")
Hir eyes gleam ("heer") That is hirs 
("heers")
Ze likes  hirself 
("heerself")

Below is a downloadable pdf of this Gender Pronoun Guide

Gender Pronoun Guide PDF

Easy Steps to Gender Inclusiveness for Educators
  1. Avoid asking kids to line up as boys or girls or separating them by gender. Instead, use things like odd and even birthday or "Which would you choose? Skateboards or bikes? Milk or juice? dogs or cats? Summer or winter? Talking or listening?" Invite students to come up with such choices themselves.
  2. Don't use phrases such as "boys and girls," "you guys," "ladies and gentlemen," and similarly gendered expressions to get kids' attention. Instead, use words that are not gendered such as "folks," "everybody," or "Y'all." Or you can try "calling all readers," "Hey campers," or "could all of the athletes come here."
  3. Have visual images reinforcing gender inclusion: hang signs that reject gender stereotypes such as "All boys don't cry" and "All girls are dainty." Feature people across all ranges of gender expression on posters and infographics.
  4. Be intolerant of openly hostile attitudes or references towards others every time you hear or observe them, but also use these as teachable moments. Take the opportunity to push the individual on their statements about gender. Being punitive may stop the behavior at the moment, but being instructive may stop it entirely.
  5. Share personal anecdotes from your own life that reflect gender inclusiveness. This could be a time when you were not gender-inclusive in your thinking, words, or behaviors, what you learned as a result, and what you will do differently next time.

Using Gender Inclusive Language with Kids
  • There are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl or neither or both, isn't that great?
  • There are lots of different types of clothes. Kids get to wear what feels comfortable to them and makes them feel good.
  • Toys are toys, hair is hair, colors are colors, and clothes are clothes.
  • Who decided that some things are for boys and some things are for girls?
  • Is there only one way to be a boy or a girl? Do you have to be a boy or a girl?
  • No one gets to tell another person how to feel on the inside.
  • Sometimes this stuff can be confusing. We get messages about some things being for boys or girls, but these messages are just some people's ideas. They may not be right for you. Each of us gets to decide what we like and don't like. We shouldn't be unkind to others about the things they like.
  • Kids can do or be like or want anything because they are individuals with hopes and likes and dreams. This is not because of their gender, but because they are people.
  • Gender is not about our bodies. It is about how we show other people things about ourselves (maybe our clothes or hair or the toys we like) and how we feel on the inside.
  • Who you are is not about what others tell you, but something you determine for yourself, even when you get messages that say otherwise.
  • Certain types of bodies are thought of as boys or girls, but that's not true for everyone. Who we are on the outside is not always who we are on the inside; think of all the wonderful things about yourself that no one else knows about by just looking at you.
  • Being a boy or a girl or something else is not about what you like, or what you wear, or your body. It is something each of us figures out for ourselves.
  • Gender expression is about the things we like or that make us comfortable. There may be some patterns we notice, but these are not rules. More girls might wear dresses than boys, but does that mean all girls wear dresses or that boys can't wear them?
  • Kids can be boys, girls, both, or neither.
  • History is full of examples of gender diversity.
  • There have been gender-diverse people in every culture, every religion, all over the world, and throughout time.
  • Have you ever been teased? How does it feel when you are teased or treated as an outsider?
  • No one likes to be pointed out by other kids. does it feel good when you think someone is talking about you?
  • How do you think you would feel if people were always asking you about your own gender?

Revised 4/16/2018
Adapted from Gender Spectrum

Below is a downloadable pdf of Gender Inclusiveness

Gender Inclusiveness PDF



The Language of Gender

The power of language to shape our perceptions of other people is immense. Precise use of terms in regards to gender can have a significant impact on demystifying many of the misperceptions associated with gender. However, the vocabulary of gender continues to evolve and there is not a universal agreement about the definitions of many terms. Nonetheless, here are some working language and examples of frequently used (and misused) terms. We offer them as a starting place for dialogue and understanding, which begins with a shared understanding of how a particular term is being used, rather than an assertion that they represent the final or only definition of the various terms.

Biological/Anatomical Sex - The physical structure of one's genitalia used to assign sex at birth. In addition to these, biological sex includes chromosomes, hormones, and internal organs and other structures related to reproduction. given the potential variation in all of these, biological sex must be seen as a spectrum or range of possibilities rather than a binary set of only two options.

Gender Identity - One's innermost core concept of self which can include male, female, a blend of both or neither, and many more--how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. For some, their gender identity is different from their biological or assigned sex. Some of these individuals choose to socially, hormonally, and/or surgically change their physical appearance to more fully match their gender identity, and some do not.

Gender Expression - Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, and other forms of presentation. Gender expression also works the other way as people assign gender to others based on their appearance, mannerisms, and other artificially gendered characteristics. When referred to as a "culturally constructed concept," gender expression is most often the dimension being described. Gender expression should not be viewed as an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender Role - this is the set of roles, activities, expectations, and behaviors commonly associated with females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities typically attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities typically attributed to females). There are societies throughout the world that have more nuanced notions about gender roles, with three or more designations.

Transgender - Sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth sex. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific sex and/or gender). Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, etc.   

Sexual Orientation - A term that refers to being physically, romantically, or sexually attracted to people of a specific gender and/or sex. Our sexual orientation and our gender identity are separate, distinct parts of our overall identity. Although a child may not yet be aware of their sexual orientation, they usually have a strong sense of their gender identity.

Genderqueer - A term that represents a blurring of the lines around gender and sexual orientation. Genderqueer individuals typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and sexual orientation. Genderqueer is typically used as an identifier for teens or adults and not used in reference to pre-adolescent children.

Cisgender/Gender Normative - Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity, and often their expression (cis- from Latin meaning "on the same side [as]" or "on this side [of]." In contrast to trans- from the Latin root meaning "across," "beyond," or "the opposite side").

Gender-expansive - An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden their own culture's commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles and/or other perceived gender norms. gender-expansive individuals include those who identify as transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender, in some way, is seen to be stretching the surrounding society's notions of gender

Cross-gender - Sometimes used to describe children who have adopted attributes that transgress the usual socially assigned gender roles or expectations, or who do not identify as either of the two sexes as currently defined

Gender Fluidity - gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression or identity, with interests and behaviors that may change, even from day to day. gender fluid children do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys. In other words, a child may feel they are a girl some days and a boy on others, or a combination, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately. 

DSD/Intersex - Disorders/Differences in sexual development. About 1% of children are born with chromosomes, hormones, genitalia and/or other sex characteristics that are not exclusively male or female as defined by the medical establishment in our society. In most cases, these children are at no medical risk, but most are assigned a biological sex (male/female) by their doctors and/or families. Many may be exposed to surgeries as children that alter their bodies without their consent in order to force them to fit into the more narrowly defined sex binary. 

FtM (Female to Male)/Affirmed male/transman - A child or adult who was born anatomically female but has a male gender identity. This individual may or may not have undergone a transition of some sort.

MtF (Male to Female)/Affirmed female/transwoman - A child or adult who was born anatomically male but has a female gender identity. This individual may or may not have undergone a transition of some sort.

Gender - A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people.  Gender expectations and norms can change over time and are different between cultures. Gender is often used synonymously, and incorrectly, with sex but this is inaccurate because sex refers to physical/biological characteristics and gender refers to social-emotional attributes.

Transition - The process by which a transgender individual strives to have physical presentation more closely align with identity. A transition can occur in three ways: social transition through non-permanent changes in such things as clothing, hairstyle, name and/or pronouns; medical transition through the use of hormone replacement therapy; and/or surgical transition in which an individual undergoes gender confirmation surgery.

Transsexuals - Individuals who do not identify with their birth-assigned genders and physically alter their bodies surgically and/or hormonally. This physical transition is a complicated, multi-step process that may take years and may include, but is not limited to, gender confirmation surgery.

Transphobia - A fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination.

Revised 3/2018
Adapted from Gender Spectrum's Language of Gender

Click below for a downloadable pdf of these terms

Language of Gender PDF

Action Steps for Being a Trans Ally

"Transgender" encompasses many different gender presentations and identities. From MTF (Male-to-Female) and FTM (Female-to-Male) to nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, and many more. Many people do not identify as transgender but still face discrimination based on their gender expression and for not conforming to traditional gender presentations.

Here are some steps you can take to be a good ally to your transgender or gender nonconforming friends:

Don't Make Assumptions About A Trans Person's Sexual Orientation Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Being gay doesn't mean you're trans and being trans doesn't mean you're gay. Sexual orientation is about who we're attracted to. Gender identity is about how we see ourselves. Trans people can identify as gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or any other sexual orientation.

If You Don't Know What Pronouns To Use, Ask Politely And Respectfully Use their pronouns and encourage other people to do so. When introducing yourself to others, tell them your pronouns as a way to normalize this process.

Confidentiality, Disclosure, and Outing Knowing a trans person's status is personal information and up to them to share with others. Gwen Araujo and Brandon Teena were both murdered when others revealed their trans status. Other routinely lose housing, jobs, and friends. Do not casually share this information or gossip about a person you know or think is trans.

Don't Assume What Path A Trans Person Is On Affirm the many ways all of us can and do transcend gender boundaries, including the choices some of us make to use medical technology to change our bodies. Some trans people wish to be recognized as their gender of choice without surgery or hormones; some need support and advocacy to get respectful medical care, hormones and/or surgery.      

Don't Police Public Restrooms Recognize that gender variant people may not match the little signs on the restroom door-or your expectations! Encourage businesses and agencies to have unisex bathrooms, and offer to accompany a trans person to the bathroom so they are less vulnerable.

Don't Just Add The "T" Without Doing The Work "LGBT" is now commonplace to show support for queerness. To be an ally for trans people, other aspects of the LGBT community need to examine their own gender stereotypes and transphobia and be willing to defend trans people and celebrate trans lives.

Listen To Trans Voices The best way to be an ally is to listen to trans people themselves. Check out the sites below. Talk to trans people in your community. They are the experts on their own lives!

Web Resources:

Revised 9/30/2018
Adapted from GLAAD

Click below for a downloadable pdf 

Steps for a Trans Ally PDF