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Why Pronouns Matter

By Kai Clemen, MTC member


We’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? You’ve heard about the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would want them to treat you.” For many of us, these are things we learned early in life, yet we may still find ourselves unintentionally breaking these rules.


Whether we realize it or not, many languages, including English, use gender binary pronouns; for example, he/him and she/her. Pronouns are used when speaking about others in the third person. However, when we use pronouns that imply that person’s gender based on our own assumptions, such as the person’s appearance or name, the pronoun used may not be correct. Using appropriate pronouns is just one step toward respecting others' gender identity and creating a more welcoming space for people of all genders.


By making an assumption about which pronoun to use we may unwittingly offend or disrespect that person and reinforce the gender binary. Properly using a person’s preferred pronoun is an excellent way to show them respect and dignity, not to mention, the experience of accidentally misgendering someone can be embarrassing for both parties.


Luckily, there are some ways we can help avoid these mistakes and embarrassment. One way is to ask the person what their preferred pronouns are or to ask how to refer to them if not using their name. Another would be to add your pronouns when introducing yourself to someone; for example, “Hello. I’m Kai, he/him pronouns.” This can help if you don’t feel comfortable asking the other person their pronouns while prompting the other person to also include their pronouns when they introduce themselves.


Lastly, an excellent way to help avoid others making assumptions about you, and to help promote awareness for all genders, is by simply adding your preferred pronouns to email signatures, social media profiles, and name tags.


These actions can help make our congregation and community more inclusive and welcoming for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary persons. Small changes made regarding the use of pronouns can make a big difference in people’s lives.


It starts with you, and it starts today. Every Sunday at First Unitarian Church, there will be pronoun stickers available in the church foyer. Add a pronoun sticker to your name tag, should you be so moved, which I hope you are, and help us create a more welcoming congregation.