In email signatures, LinkedIn profiles and Zoom display names, more and more people are sharing their preferred pronouns. Major news outlets acknowledge their subjects’ pronouns beyond the traditional “he/him” and “she/her,” and the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press (AP) style book accept “they/them/their” as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun.
This is more than an evolution of grammar in common usage: using preferred pronouns is a powerful way to demonstrate respect for queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender people. It can also positively affect mental health. A recent study by the University of Texas demonstrated that for transgender youth, using their chosen pronouns and names reduces depression and suicide risks.
The national PRSA organization’s blog PRSay posted a thoughtful piece focusing on both how to use preferred pronouns and why this practice is critically important. As its author Crystal Borde writes,
For many in transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex communities, being able to represent their gender identity through the use of their preferred pronouns is a way to be seen and respected for who they are, and reduce experiences of being misgendered and misidentified by incorrect gendering.
As PR and communications professionals, we know the power of words perhaps better than anyone else. Encouraging clients and colleagues to use gender-neutral language and appropriate pronouns in all situations creates acceptance, equity and safety within our communities and places of business—not just for LGBTQ+ individuals, but for everyone.
By: PRSA Detroit Diversity Committee