Asking someone their pronouns is a simple and respectful way to show that you’re supportive of their gender identity. After all, it’s no longer a foregone conclusion that everyone is cisgender and identifies with the gender tied to the sex they were born. While you don’t want to pry or seem nosy, you also don’t want to misgender someone unintentionally. Here’s how to ask someone their pronouns and why you should. We promise it’s not as awkward as it sounds.
Why do people’s pronouns matter?
Using someone’s correct pronouns is an important aspect of respecting their gender identity. When we use the wrong pronouns, it can make someone feel invalidated, disrespected, and marginalized. By asking someone their pronouns, you’re showing that you respect their gender identity and are willing to use the correct pronouns to refer to them.
In addition to simply respecting your fellow human beings, this does tie into dating. If you’re pansexual, for instance, it may not matter to you how your partners identify. However, if you consider yourself to be straight, for instance, you likely won’t want to date someone who identifies as the same gender as you.
If your partner identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, you should know about it. That’s because there can be complicated feelings and politics tied to this identity that you need to be mindful of in your relationship.
Either way, whether it’s a friend, colleague, or romantic interest, feeling comfortable enough to ask someone their pronouns is important.
How to ask someone their pronouns
- Be direct and respectful. Simply ask the person, “What pronouns do you use?” This direct approach is respectful and shows that you want to take their gender identity seriously. Most people won’t be angry about this approach. In fact, they’ll likely be grateful that you took the initiative.
- Offer your own pronouns first. Sharing your own pronouns first can make the conversation feel less intimidating and can help to create a safe and welcoming environment for the person you’re speaking with. You can mention this casually and it shouldn’t be a big deal (because it’s not).
- Avoid making assumptions. Do not assume someone’s pronouns based on their appearance, name, or anything else. Everyone has the right to identify as they see fit and to choose the pronouns that best reflect their gender identity. Someone who “looks” a certain way may identify differently. This is why you’re asking.
- Be patient and understanding. If someone isn’t comfortable sharing their pronouns, it’s important to be patient and not to push them. Some people may not have fully explored their gender identity or may not yet feel safe or comfortable opening up. Everyone processes things differently and is facing different things in life. Try to be compassionate.
- Correct yourself if necessary. If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronouns, it’s important to correct yourself and apologize. This will likely happen even after you know their chosen pronouns. You’re human and you make mistakes. As long as you’re aware and pull yourself up on it quickly enough, it’s no big deal.
The bottom line
In conclusion, asking someone their pronouns is really no big deal. It doesn’t have to be awkward or a big deal. However, it is a great way to ensure you’re being respectful and thoughtful. By using the correct pronouns, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. Remember to be direct, respectful, and understanding, and always correct yourself if necessary.
It should be noted that your personal opinion should not come into play here. It doesn’t matter if you “agree with” people’s right to choose their own gender identity. What does matter is that you treat your fellow human beings with dignity and respect. It’s not up to you to decide how someone else lives their life. It’s also not your right to tell them they’re wrong for doing so. Keep that in mind in your interactions.