A question about pronouns
June 26, 2019 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Hi folks, I'm a hetero male trying to be conscientious and I recently received a business email from someone that included the pronouns. This person had a traditionally gender ambiguous name, so it was helpful for me. I have some questions

This email I received included the sig: _person's name_ (She, Her & Hers)

Would there ever be a case where the 3 variants don't match up? Would it ever be (She, Him & Hers) for example?

Is it appropriate to include pronouns in my sig. As I said, I'm hetero male and my name is traditionally male, so, I don't think there's any confusion on behalf of recipients, but I'd do it to signal I'm trying to be an ally - would it be read that way?
posted by askmehow to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have never seen the three variants not matching up. The reasoning I've seen for everyone putting all three variants is so that people with neopronouns like ze/hir/hirs (who usually put all three since many people aren't familiar with them) aren't the only ones putting all three.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:38 AM on June 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


As to your latter question, yes putting your pronouns is a good way to signal that you care about these issues and also to make it more normative for all people (so that it's not just people with "different" pronouns that are doing the work).
posted by Bebo at 5:40 AM on June 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


I’ve seen “she pronouns” and that’s what I use if it’s appropriate, mostly because I have the same question. Thanks for the explanation, cowbell (may I call you Cowbell?), it’s helpful.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:40 AM on June 26, 2019


Sometimes people give more than one pronoun they are comfortable using. For example:
name
contact
she/her or they/them

I have not seen and would find it somewhat confusing to see the pronouns mixed as in your she, him, & hers example, partly because my mind originally read that as she, her, hers--brains like to skip patterns when they think they know it. As far as I know people are not ascribing the different pronouns to specific parts of speech. I do, however, know people who have asked people they are close to alternate pronouns when referring to them; such a practice is not something I have seen requested in a business context or really from anyone except loving, accepting, grokking partners & friends.

Having all three forms is very useful for pronouns that are not in common usage (yet!), such as: ze, zir, zirs or e, em, eir.

And yes, it's a good idea to put your pronouns in your signature line. Normalizing that practice makes it easier for others to do so. I work for an organization where it is standard practice to include it.
posted by carrioncomfort at 5:43 AM on June 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I work as staff in higher education, and everyone in my office (and more generally on our campus) has been encouraged to put our pronouns in our email signatures. The idea is that it gets normalized if it's done by everyone, including cis people with unambiguous gender presentation, and that can make it easier for trans and nonbinary people to do it. It also normalizes the idea that someone's gender might not match your perception. Someone could be named Mary and could wear skirts and makeup, and that person could be non-binary and use they/them pronouns or male and use he/him pronouns. It provides a reminder not to assume someone's gender unless they tell you.

My sense is that, at least in higher ed, this is pretty standard behavior, done by people who are not especially woke or cutting edge. (I'm beginning to see a little bit of pushback to the ubiquitous pronoun stuff, based on the fact that it can force trans people to either lie or out themselves, but I don't think that's an issue until it becomes formally or informally compulsory. If you're taking the initiative to do it on your own, it's not putting pressure on anyone else.) And I agree with needs more cowbell that using all three is mostly to create a standard that would work for people whose pronouns weren't widely known.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:46 AM on June 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


It seems that including pronouns in your signature has really gained momentum in the past year or so. I'd seen it before then, but it was fairly uncommon. It's still not widespread, but it's becoming so. The trend I've seen has been especially pronounced among people like yourself who don't necessarily "need" to include them.

Since pronouns are a personal thing, I guess it's possible that someone somewhere would prefer mixed pronouns. But I've never seen it, and it doesn't seem to be something to waste time thinking about.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:48 AM on June 26, 2019


Would there ever be a case where the 3 variants don't match up? Would it ever be (She, Him & Hers) for example?

I know of at least one instance where their pronouns are whatever is most disruptive for the speaker, so… maybe?
posted by zamboni at 5:54 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Would there ever be a case where the 3 variants don't match up?

I've sometimes seen mixed pronouns like,

she/them
he/them

So far, that's never meant, "I want female pronouns in the nominative and plural pronouns in the accusative" but rather "I want either female or plural pronouns, interchangeably."

I'll add that the pronouns-in-emails thing might turn out to be great for people with "ethnic" names. Nobody has any idea whether I'm Mr. or Mrs. Puppet, and if my parents' experience is any indication, people will use other context to guess. E.g., my father has been addressed as Mrs. Puppet by school people, because I guess teachers assume they're talking to people's mothers.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 5:59 AM on June 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


(I’ve worked with students, middle and high school who don’t always “get” what pronouns are as a part of speech so having “she, her, hers” helps to clarify what it’s there for)
posted by raccoon409 at 5:59 AM on June 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


Just wanted to flag that you used the term “hetero” twice in your question. However, sexual orientation (gay, straight, hetero, homo, etc.) doesn’t have much to do with the pronouns a person uses.

You might be confusing “hetero” with the term “cis,” as in “cisgender” (the opposite of “transgender.”)
posted by whitewall at 6:31 AM on June 26, 2019 [39 favorites]


@whitewall thanks, will keep that in mind
posted by askmehow at 6:47 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


In terms of pronouns not "matching," an acquaintance's email signature has "pronouns: he/they/she" because the acquaintance is nonbinary and uses all three sets (he/him/his, they/them/their, she/her/hers) of personal pronouns for themself.

I am cis and have pronouns in my work email signature to remind people not to make assumptions about gender identity based on gender presentation. I work with mainly cis people in a mental healthcare setting that increasingly serves trans and nonbinary clients and I think it's an important reminder to clinicians (who are usually the people I'm emailing) not to make assumptions about clients.
posted by lazuli at 6:55 AM on June 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I prefer "they," but frankly, no one seems to care what I prefer even when I'm asked, so I just say they/she to basically let them off the hook when I feel safe enough to say my actual pronouns. At this point I know everyone is going to call me "she" anyway.

They/she, to me, is very different from she/they, which I don't personally care for. I know this is not universal, but I've never met anyone who uses that order who isn't a cis person trying to be "inclusive." (I usually ask people if I get the chance one-on-one, because I'm looking for other people like me!) For me, it actually feels like erasure when people throw a "they" in to their pronouns when they "don't care" about it.
posted by sockermom at 6:57 AM on June 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


The reasoning I've seen for everyone putting all three variants is so that people with neopronouns like ze/hir/hirs (who usually put all three since many people aren't familiar with them) aren't the only ones putting all three.

Yup. I used ze/hir pronouns for a while and would list at least two forms, if not all three. I've since gone back to using a traditional pronoun, and I often just give one form: "I use she."

But listing two or three forms, inspired by the neopronoun-using folks, has become a sort of queer community custom. So sometimes I follow that custom and say "I use she/her," even though it's redundant.

I'm especially likely to give both forms in writing. That's because in writing I don't have to worry about it being a waste of time: people can skim or skip ahead. And when I'm looking for someone's pronouns in a bio or sig, I find myself looking for the slash character — it's kind of a visual HEY LOOK PRONOUNS HERE indicator — so I figure it's nice to give that same visual indicator to someone else who might be looking for my pronouns.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:20 AM on June 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


Another area where the pronouns are helpful is when the "obvious" name isn't obvious in your reader's culture or when the name is gaining popularity among other genders (I've seen an increase in female-identified Ryans, for example).
posted by TwoStride at 7:58 AM on June 26, 2019


Please do put your pronouns in your signature. It matters to normalize this, and it matters to let other people know that you understand about pronouns and can feel comfortable telling you theirs.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:03 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


When I'm in a place I feel safe coming out as genderqueer, I'll put my pronouns as she/her or they/them, or she/them to save time and space if needed. It signals that I'm comfortable using she/her/hers and they/them/theirs.

(In contrast to sockermom, I have met many people who use she/them, and it's been very comforting and welcoming, for a lot of reasons that are not relevant here. Gender expression is a land of contrasts, etc.)

In short, yes, sometimes you'll see them mixed, but that should be taken to indicate a range of pronouns that the person is comfortable with.
posted by kalimac at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm beginning to see a little bit of pushback to the ubiquitous pronoun stuff, based on the fact that it can force trans people to either lie or out themselves, but I don't think that's an issue until it becomes formally or informally compulsory.

Trans person here! I would love if pronouns in signatures were normal at my workplace (I've never seen them and don't feel comfortable being the only one). However I want to gently push back on the idea that pronouns out trans people or force them to lie. I use my deadname and she/her pronouns at work and my new name + they/he pronouns basically everywhere else. If pronouns in email sigs were common, I would put she/her and I wouldn't be lying. Because that's what I want my co-workers to use (for now).

Just in case any other trans people are reading this know you're not lying, you're telling people what pronouns you want them to use right now. Of course there are lots of experiences and opinions here, but transitioning can be emotionally draining and it helped me immensely to set this particular worry aside.
posted by Is It Over Yet? at 10:38 AM on June 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


Sorry about that, Is It Over Yet?! I have heard people express the idea that they felt pressured to state things that they preferred to keep ambiguous, but I'm not saying that anyone should feel that way. I realize I phrased that terribly!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:51 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


No worries, ArbitraryAndCapricious, didn't mean to single you out! I just heard that same worry from a cis person recently and that's the response I wish I'd had at the time.
posted by Is It Over Yet? at 11:07 AM on June 26, 2019


My corporate email sig reads

fname lname| Pronouns: He/Him/His | job title | department | C: ###-###-####

For me, the little link to the explainer webpage does a ton of lifting.
posted by rebent at 11:46 AM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am trans and I put she/they/none on my signature and slack profile at work cause I think it gets the point across. In reality I prefer them in the order of none/they/she but people default so hard to man/woman that I just default to she cause trying to be nonbinary feels like a herculean task that I don't have the energy for.

At my new job a whole lot of cis people are putting their pronouns in their email and slack and I thought I would find it annoying, but actually it's really really comforting and makes me feel very welcome and safe. So from my perspective I would like more people stating their pronouns, I don't know how other trans folks feel about it though?
posted by nikaspark at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


As far as the redundancy goes, I think it's mostly to take up real estate. A little "he" in there can get swallowed up by the rest of the sig. "He / him / his" takes up more space and feels more balanced if in its own line.
posted by explosion at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I use “they” and “she” interchangeably when talking about myself, I don’t really “prefer” one or the other, and I’d specifically really like it if people would use both for me instead of just picking one. So my email signature looks something like like

Halting P. Solved • they/her/she/them • Electickle Engiqueer • Frobozzco Int’l., Inc.

and in conversation I introduce myself with “Hi, I’m Halting, I use she-and-they.” In specifically queer and trans spaces I’ll add, “that’s ‘and,’ not ‘or.’” (Not that it makes any difference to cisgender people, who only ever seem to hear the “she” part…)
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 2:21 PM on June 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am a trans person who is not a fan of the "let's specify pronouns in cis-dominated spaces" trend. Being put in a position where you are expected to tell people to use the wrong pronouns (because it's the safe option or the expedient option) feels really shitty. Because "let's ask people for pronouns" isn't enough to make a welcoming environment. I don't think there's an easy answer. There's a tough balance to strike between creating space for people to make pronouns known, while still letting people opt out, and somehow not creating cover for assholes.

There's also a whole other layer where people seem to presume that choice of pronouns is a statement about identity. I have a grammatical gender. Please do not assume my grammatical gender tells you all that much about my actual gender, my "binary-ness", my attitude towards my trans-ness or anything else. I'll be honest, I spent years with my gender being public property and when cis people specify their pronouns, that's where my brain goes--cis people are going to demand to hear about my gender, whether I want to share or not.

I actually say "I use pronouns like he, him and his". I used to say "I use masculine pronouns" but no one understands it. But I intentionally don't say "My pronouns are ..." or just "Hoyland, he/him" in a round of introductions. That's partly about separating it from identity and partly because I think the "name [pronoun]" construction coming from a person specifying the pronouns they usually get by default kind of subtly reinforces gender norms because people tend to say it a) quickly and b) like they're bored.
posted by hoyland at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


Because "let's ask people for pronouns" isn't enough to make a welcoming environment.

This is absolutely fact and I’d like to add that in my current workplace there are about 50 other things the company is doing to instill a sense of belonging for people like myself. It’s important that cis people don’t just assume that stating pronouns is some magical way to create inclusion. It’s probably damn near at last on the list of things that make me feel welcome.

So specifically, in the scenario where I’m in, I was pleasantly surprised by my comforted reaction to seeing pronouns listed by cis folks because up until a week ago, before I started my new job, I was very much of a similar mindset as Hoyland where it mostly feels a bit hollow.
posted by nikaspark at 7:51 PM on June 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I wish I had been more clear in my response above about she/they pronouns. I should have been more careful and specific. I was specifically only thinking of my work context. My immediate worksite is just hostile about pronouns, and more generally my line of work is fairly transphobic.

So, I think the advice that this is really situationally specific is good. When I see a cis man specify his pronouns in an email signature at my job I appreciate it because it signals to me that he may at least understand that pronouns are important and not just a joke, something to roll your eyes about, or perfunctory.
posted by sockermom at 9:05 PM on June 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I am a trans person who is not a fan of the "let's specify pronouns in cis-dominated spaces" trend. Being put in a position where you are expected to tell people to use the wrong pronouns (because it's the safe option or the expedient option) feels really shitty. Because "let's ask people for pronouns" isn't enough to make a welcoming environment. I don't think there's an easy answer. There's a tough balance to strike between creating space for people to make pronouns known, while still letting people opt out, and somehow not creating cover for assholes.

There's also a whole other layer where people seem to presume that choice of pronouns is a statement about identity. I have a grammatical gender. Please do not assume my grammatical gender tells you all that much about my actual gender, my "binary-ness", my attitude towards my trans-ness or anything else. I'll be honest, I spent years with my gender being public property and when cis people specify their pronouns, that's where my brain goes--cis people are going to demand to hear about my gender, whether I want to share or not.


Hoyland, this is such a genius comment.

I'm a cis queer woman and do a fair bit of work on inclusion and diversity including for queer people. In the last few years I have seen a lot of cis straight white people that I work with want to share their pronouns, discuss pronouns, ask for pronouns on name tags, etc. I don't think this is intrinsically bad - people making an effort is not bad. However, at least in my workplace, I think it's intellectually lazy: it comes across (to me) as people in the dominant group trying to show how woke they are while putting in the absolute least effort possible to truly create an inclusive environment, and not thinking carefully about how doing this might be a double-edged sword.
posted by medusa at 11:55 AM on June 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


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