Gender Pronouns - Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras

CYSO is committed to creating a learning environment that is diverse and inclusive. We want our staff, students, and families to feel comfortable being themselves and also feel celebrated for the identities that make them unique. In addition, we hope to build a culture where we don’t make assumptions or pass judgement on each other.

What are Pronouns?

Pronouns are used in language all the time when we refer to ourselves or other people.

Here is an example of four common pronouns used to refer to other people (there there are many more that people may identify with):

she/her/hersShe is in the bathroom.

Her family is going on vacation.
That notebook is hers.

Ty went by herself to the store.
he/him/hisHe is in the bathroom.

His family is going on vacation.
That notebook is his.

Ty went by himself to the store.
they/them/theirsThey are in the bathroom.

Their family is going on vacation.
That notebook is theirs.

Ty went by themself to the store.
ze/hir/hirs
(pronounced “zee”/“here”/“heres”)
Ze is in the bathroom.

Hir family is going on vacation.
That notebook is hirs.

Ty went by hirself to the store.

Why are Pronouns Important?

Pronouns are one basic way that we portray our identities. When a person chooses to tell you their pronouns (in their email signature or otherwise), they are simply letting you know how you should refer to them, without you having to make assumptions. Using a person’s correct pronouns is one of the most basic needs they have to feel safe and to exist in public spaces. When someone refers to another person using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, that can lead to that person feeling disrespected.

It is never a good idea to assume someone’s gender. Living a life where people will naturally assume the correct pronouns for you is a privilege that not everyone experiences. Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression, it can also be considered an act of violence.

Why Would Someone Add Their Pronouns to Their Signature Line?

When a person includes their gender pronouns on their email signature line (or on a nametag, when introducing themselves, etc.), they are letting you know up front how they would like to be referred to. It takes the guesswork away from you. It’s their way of saying “when you refer to me using pronouns (opposed to by my name), these are the pronouns I’d like for you to use.”

If Someone Feels the Need to State Their Pronouns, Does it Mean They are Transgender and/or Gender Non-Conforming?

Not at all. Everyone has a gender identity, and most of us have specific pronouns we’d like people to use when we are being referred to. If you are a cis (not transgender) person or identify with a binary gender, normalizing talking about pronouns can be an act of allyship with trans and gender non-conforming people.

What if I Make a Mistake with Someone’s Pronouns?

Totally fine, it happens to everyone! What’s most important is that you don’t make a big deal about it. Just apologize quickly, correct yourself, and move on. Ex: “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant they, not he.”

What if I Hear Someone Else Make a Mistake?

Easy, correct them politely and quickly, don’t make a big deal about it. Ex: “Actually, Ty uses he pronouns.”

Adapted from here and here.

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