A Comprehensive Guide to Pronouns in the Digital Realm
I want to preface this article by saying that as a cis person, I cannot speak for the trans community, but instead I will advocate for awareness as best I can. Feel free to email email@example.com if this article has any shortcomings. Sources will be listed at the end of this article.
Explaining to my well-meaning dad that he should put his pronouns in his zoom name was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It didn’t make sense to him that even though he has a massive beard and all his friends know how to address him, that he should put his pronouns in his zoom name. He described how he thought his buddies would be confused, or his employers would ask “what’s with the pronouns?” and he wouldn’t know how to explain. I’m still trying to convince him (and help him explain why in the first place, if anyone ever asks), so hopefully this article will help (love you dad!).
In the age of digital technology and communication, we are connecting with one another in advanced ways. The way we introduce ourselves should be the same. Just like the technological world, the social world is changing for the better; towards innovation and improvement for the whole. But at its core, including your pronouns with your name is just as important as a handshake upon meeting someone (or an elbow bump). Simple courtesy.
I say this because pronouns are just like your name. It’s what is right to you.
Imagine this. You are at a social gathering (pre-Covid of course) and you meet a new person. What’s the first thing you do?
“Hi, my name is (your name), what’s yours?”
Simple! It’s the same for pronouns, which are just as important as someone’s name.
Say the person you meet is named Walter. Your friend Skyler walks over to you and Walter, and you introduce Walter as Gustavo. Walter is obviously confused, because well, that’s not their name. Pronouns are just like names, and just as important as asking for a name.
In real life situations, if you are meeting a new person, and are unsure of what pronouns they might use because you just met them (don’t assume, you are not a mind-reader), a great way to ask for someone’s pronouns you’ve just met is as follows:
“Hey! My name is Oona, I use she/her pronouns. Nice to meet you.”
Yes this seems awkward because it’s not normal practice. But the more we practice, the closer we are to positive change. For more resources on how you can ask for someone’s pronouns, you can visit the websites at the end of this article.
Introducing ourselves in the digital realm has proven to be very different, and obviously unfamiliar for many of us. But the pandemic gives you a perfect opportunity to practice using and asking for pronouns if this is something you are unfamiliar with. Here are some simple ways you can include your pronouns in the digital space:
In your zoom name.
This year I began my first ever semester of college online, and barely knew anybody. My first introduction to my classmates was not a “hey, can I sit next to you?” or a quiet ask for a pencil, but a zoom room of muted mics, and the professor going around asking ice breaker questions.
At my high school, it was not a universal norm for people to introduce themselves with their pronouns, but at my college, every professor asked for your names and pronouns. Not only did I feel good because I wouldn’t accidentally use the wrong pronouns for someone, but it created a sense of community and trust. This was a place that valued the identities of students, and this was the kind of place I wanted to be.
Putting your pronouns in your zoom name is just a common courtesy, so everyone feels safe and respected. Just like learning someone’s name, learning someone’s pronouns is equally as important. Linked below is a short tutorial video by Eliana Rubin on how to put your pronouns in your zoom name!
In your Instagram bio
Besides meeting people in class, Instagram was often my first impression of someone. Although mostly universal at my college, many people still don’t put their pronouns in their bio. But let me reiterate that putting your pronouns next to your name in any online context is very important! Not only does it create a safe space for trans people, but it also is again, common courtesy.
You can put your pronouns next to your name, or in the bio section of your Instagram page. For example, I put mine under the name of my college! I even put little emojis on each side of it.
In your email sign-off
A new addition to my emails have been a simple (she/her) next to my email sign-offs! For visual learners:
Anywhere where you include you have your name in your email is a great way to include your pronouns so people know how to address you in email chains and future meetings!
Now it’s important to mention that you should not force someone to put their pronouns in their bio. They could be questioning their identity, or figuring out what feels right for them. Although it’s okay to encourage people to put their pronouns in their bio, do not force them to.
But to all the cis-gender people out there, I am encouraging you to practice including your pronouns in your everyday life. It creates a safer space for trans people in the workplace, in social settings and in the online sphere. Including your pronouns promotes conversation and inquiry, and leads towards a normalization of being kind, courteous and understanding to one another. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, trust me it does, or it will.
This is not about being “woke”, it’s about creating a better future for us all. Let’s promote radical love and understanding for us all!
Oona Lulu (she/her)
How to ask for someone’s pronouns:
Resources for cisgender people:
Resources if you’re questioning your gender: