My name is Aryn. And I use they/them pronouns.
I want to talk to you about pronouns and how being intentional with these words will make Spreetail better.
Language is complex. We often stress out when we talk about language, especially when we talk about how our language makes those around us feel. So, I’ll be keeping things simple. We’ll start at the beginning together.
What are pronouns?
When we talk about a person’s pronouns, we’re talking about words like he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, they, them, their, and themself. These are the words we’d use to replace someone’s name in a sentence. Everyone has pronouns.
We can say:
+ I worked with Jane. OR I worked with her.
+ That is Trevor’s pen. OR That is his pen.
Unless you’re just repeatedly using folks’ names, you’re probably already using people’s pronouns.
Why do I need to know someone’s pronouns?
So, here’s where things get trickier. When we’re young, we’re taught some easy ways to navigate the world. To make our lives easier, we assume. Our brains make a bunch of assumptions when we enter a room or meet someone for the first time. It’s not inherently a bad thing.
But sometimes these assumptions are incorrect. Often, our assumption of someone’s gender is wrong and we’ll use the wrong pronouns for them. We call this mistake “misgendering.”
If you’ve ever had someone call you the wrong name, you already understand how it feels to be misgendered. (Please understand, it’s similar but not the same.) It’s awkward and uncomfortable. It hurts your feelings. Worse, you feel disrespected or invisible.
We know it’s polite to refer to people the way they ask to be. If someone says their name is Michael, you’re not going to call them Amy.
Using the pronouns someone asks you to use is the same. If your coworker says, “I use he/him pronouns,” you know you should do that. It’s both the polite and professional thing to do to replace your coworker’s name with he, him, his, or himself.
We care about each other here at Spreetail. We know that making our coworkers feel comfortable will help us work together.
But I’m still having trouble with my coworker’s pronouns! Help?
That’s okay. You will get it. Continue to push yourself to use their pronouns correctly.
If you’re having a lot of trouble, here are some quick tips and exercises:
+ Start by only using their name while referring to them out loud and in your head. This will help you associate the person you see and their name first. It also helps you disconnect the incorrect pronouns.
+ Practice talking about the person in your head or out loud on your way to/from work. Only use their pronouns.
+ Repetition. The more you use someone’s pronouns, the more they’ll stick.
+ If you use the wrong pronouns in front of the person, apologize like you would with anyone else! We trip over words all the time. Treat this the same. “Ack, sorry. He said…” is literally all you have to say. 😊
What if I don’t know someone’s pronouns?
I suggest asking them privately. When you do, consider introducing yourself like I did earlier. Try, “Hey. I’d like to formerly introduce myself. My name is X, and I use he/him | she/her | they/them pronouns.”
A note on singular they/them pronouns
Using they/them pronouns for a coworker is very easy. You’re probably using singular they/them pronouns already!
We use singular they/them all the time to talk about people with unknown or uncertain gender. We also use it when we’re too lazy to say “he or she.” It’s not hard to make the switch to using them for someone you know personally.
Make Spreetail Better
We’re a company that cares about each other. Show you care by getting to know your coworkers and using their correct pronouns.
At your next meeting, include your pronouns when you introduce yourself. Let’s normalize these discussions. It helps reduce the stress on our coworkers.