how to use pronouns correctly

Creating a Welcoming Environment Through Pronouns

by khristian kemp-delisser, Director, Multicultural Affairs, University of Bridgeport

As we prepare to welcome a new class of scholars to our campuses in person and virtually this September, many educators and administrators will contend with pronoun usage as they set a welcoming campus environment.

For some, the exchange of pronouns in regular greetings can be cumbersome and uncomfortable. The sense of discomfort or inconvenience experienced by cisgender or gender-conforming people can provide a valuable empathy-building opportunity to reflect on the privilege developed by navigating a world in which your gender is not questioned or can be safely assumed. For others whose gender identity may not fit perfectly into social boxes or expectations, this moment can offer an empowering chance to be seen and acknowledged.

Whatever the personal reason for the usage of a personal pronoun, it’s important to remember that for LGBTQ+ individuals, pronouns are considered less of a “preference” and more of a personal imperative. The Trevor Project, which has grown from an anti-suicide hotline into one of our country’s leading anti-violence and LGBTQ+ youth empowerment organizations, conducted a poll in 2020 and reported a small but growing minority of non-binary youth beginning to experiment with or adopt “it” as a gender pronoun. This is surely a custom that will make even the most seasoned educator uncomfortable. We must all be patient with ourselves as we find our way to the ideal identity. When grace is extended on both sides of the interaction, pronouns, properly or even improperly delivered, can open the door to learn more about the person in front of you.

If you would like to learn more, the UB Multicultural Affairs Office has a variety of in-person or virtual presentations on pronoun competency, safe zones, gender diversity and other LGBTQ -inclusion workshops offered monthly or by request. Additionally, the online resources and information provided here are a service of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. We welcome your feedback and suggestions of significant DEI-related cultural or social issues and observances to inform our UB practices and policies.

For more information, contact us at multicultural@bridgeport.edu

Further Resources

“Why Pronouns Matter”

https://pronouns.org/

Cambridge University “English As An Additional Language” Resources

Pronouns in the Classroom Activities

https://www.cambridge.org/gb/education/blog/2022/03/15/playing-with-pronouns/

University of Michigan “Inclusive Teaching” Resource Site

A primer on gender diversity and pronouns

https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/gender-diversity-and-pronouns/

International Pronouns Day, Oct 19, 2022

The mission of this grassroots educational organization is to make the free exchange of pronouns commonplace

https://pronounsday.org/

khristian kemp-delisser, Ed.D. (they/them/theirs) serves as the director of Multicultural Affairs and adjunct instructor at the University of Bridgeport. They are a lifelong student, educator, and researcher of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), with an emphasis on gender and sexuality.