#1 Understanding Pronouns

Gender means more than most of us realize.

Every post is split into four sections.

  1. Learning the language

  2. Creating empathy

  3. Action items

  4. Resources

Learning the language

Sex and Gender

  • Sex is what the doctor identifies you as based on your genitals or chromosomes at birth. Intersex people are born with variations of both male and female genitalia and/or chromosomes.

  • Gender is how a person identifies or chooses to label themselves. It is recognized legally and socially. It also comes with a host of society's flawed expectations about how to act or think.

Gender Spectrum

  • Transgender is when a person’s sex and gender are not the same, and cisgender is when they are.

  • Non-binary (or genderqueer) is when a person does not identify with the male/female gender binaries but falls on a spectrum of gender identities.

    • Note about the word: queer. Some people may find it offensive, and some embrace it. It is better to use non-binary over queer.

  • Genderfluid is when a person’s gender identity is not fixed.

Pronouns (there are dozens of pronouns, but these are a good starting point)

  • He/Him

  • She/Her

  • They/Them 

    • In 2017, the Associated Press recognized they/them/their pronouns as singular and gender-neutral.

  • Ze/Zir (or Zie or xe)

    • gender-neutral pronouns

    • pronounced “Zee”

  • Their name

    • some people don’t want to be referred to with pronouns

Creating empathy

The doctor identified me as a female- my sex. I identify as a woman- my gender identity. The world sees me as a woman- society's perception of me. When either one of these is not the same, it can create a constant battle that might not be obvious to cisgendered people.

Making assumptions about a person's gender forces that person to act in a certain way or “cover” their true selves. Covering is when a person hides or downplays an aspect of their identity to avoid discrimination.

When cis-gender people introduce themselves with pronouns, we face no consequences and give space for people who are not cis-gendered to share their pronouns if they’d like. We can’t always put the onus of creating inclusion on minorities. As a cis-gendered woman, I have the privilege of not facing the type of discrimination that a transgender or non-binary person might face.

By introducing my pronouns, I can create a safe space for people who could be threatened for their identities. Transgender youth are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than their peers, and just addressing them by their chosen name and pronouns makes that risk drop, according to a study by the University of Texas at Austin.

Action Items

  • Introduce yourself with your pronouns. 

    • ex. “My name is Jeyashree Haridoss and I go by she/her/hers.”

    • Then ask, “How should I refer to you?”

    • Normalizing these in-office conversations and networking is a free, simple, and instant way to make your workspace more inclusive.

  • Don’t force someone to share their pronouns. Always provide them with the space to say no. They may not be confident that it is a safe space.

  • Add your pronouns and the link to www.mypronouns.org on your email signatures and social media

    • Adding the link allows people to educate themselves

    • During internships, I’ve added my pronouns to my email signature which sparked a back and forth email conversation with an executive about their importance.

  • Add it to the team page on your website

  • When you’re doing customer discovery or any kind of traction, offer multiple options

    • ex. Offer these options: “they/them”, “ze/zir”, “she/her”, “he/him”, “add a pronoun”, “prefer not to say”

  • Add it to wherever you officially display someone’s name

    • ex. name tags, outside your office near where your name is 

If you share your pronouns, you are signaling a safe space for those across the gender spectrum. These actions come with the responsibility of understanding, respecting, and advocating for trans and non-binary rights. If you are still learning about what that means, I’ve added resources below to help you get started.

Understanding and advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion is a journey. We all are at different stages. As long as we continue to learn and keep our minds open, we can be part of the solution.


Note: I’m learning too. I’m a cis-gendered female and can’t speak for the experiences of non-binary and trans folk. If I have made a mistake, please let me know. I promise to keep learning and be better.

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