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Charla Huber: Asking for pronouns can cause anxiety

You may have noticed on email signatures, name tags and Twitter handles people are adding their pronouns. Even on many Zoom calls people add their pronouns next to their displayed name. Common pronouns used are “she/her,” “he/him” or “they/them.
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Genderfluid comedian Eddie Izzard, who is due to perform in Victoria in November, prefers to be referred to as “her.” However, if someone is not ready to publicly state their preferred pronouns, it can put them in an awkward place if you ask them, Charla Huber writes. WESTBETH ENTERTAINMENT

You may have noticed on email signatures, name tags and Twitter handles people are adding their pronouns. Even on many Zoom calls people add their pronouns next to their displayed name.

Common pronouns used are “she/her,” “he/him” or “they/them.” The act of sharing and asking pronouns is something that has been implemented as a respectful way to share one’s own pronouns and to open the door for others to share theirs. This is something that has been gaining traction and many people are welcoming it. People can share their identity with others to ensure they are not misgendered.

The concept is when everyone shares their pronouns, someone who is transgender or non-binary can share their pronouns casually with everyone else.

When it comes to gender, there have been huge strides in ­making space for people to be more welcoming and inclusive. The act of embracing pronouns is one demonstration of that.

I’ve heard of other situations where folks with androgenous names such as Sam, Alex or Robin appreciate having pronouns added on email signatures to mitigate being misgendered as well.

I agree that providing opportunities for people to share their ­pronouns is something that is important and should have happened a long time ago. Many people welcome the opportunity, but rarely do I ever hear the other side of this equation.

I am a firm believer that it is OK for people to share their ­pronouns, but I do not think it is always appropriate to openly ask for people’s pronouns.

If I am ever unsure, I use “they/them” pronouns for someone, or simply use the individual’s name without pronouns, to err on the side of caution.

When we are asking someone their pronouns, even if done out of an act of inclusiveness and respect, we could be forcing someone to “out themselves” when they may not be ready. If someone is going through a period of questioning their identity, it can cause extra unneeded stress. The individual is then faced with lying and feeling awful, or feeling forced to disclose and feeling awful. If someone is not ready to publicly state their preferred pronouns, it puts them in an awkward place.

Due to this, when I am in a group setting, I often do not share my pronouns. I want to make sure that if there is anyone else in the room who isn’t comfortable sharing pronouns, that they are not the only person.

If a workplace creates an overarching policy stating that ­everyone must display their pronouns, it could cause emotional ­turmoil to someone unintentionally.

If you want to introduce yourself with your pronouns, it can be great way to open the door to someone else to share theirs. If they do not use that opportunity to share their pronouns, don’t force them.

In these types of situations, each one of us needs to identify our own privileges. If you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth and have never questioned it, saying your pronouns are “she/her” or “he/him” may be simple, but it isn’t for everyone.

charlahuber@outlook.com