What are gender pronouns?

There are a range of gender pronouns currently being used such as they, zir, she, he, etc. We don’t tend to think a whole lot about them. We tend to interpret or “read” a person based on how they present – outward appearance, speech, gait, build etc. Gender is a social construct with ideas about what it means to be female and male embodied in socio-cultural, political and economic institutions. Anyone who subverts expressions of  being a woman or man is often misgendered.

Why is it important to respect gender pronouns?

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it may make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, devalued, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of these things).

How can we respect gender pronouns?

  • Discussing and correctly using gender pronouns sets a tone of respect. This is especially important for new staff and service users who may feel particularly vulnerable and scared in a healthcare environment and in wider society if they present as gender non-conforming.
  • Many people may be thinking about gender pronouns for the first time, so this will be a learning opportunity for them. Some people may prefer to be called by their name, and avoid gender pronouns altogether.
  • If you are uncertain, ask. It may feel awkward at first, but that is because we are not used to doing it. We are not in the habit of asking. You can ask:
  1. “How would you like me to refer to you?”
  2. “How would you like to be addressed?”
  3. “My name is Sam and my pronouns are he and his. What about you?”