Recently, pronouns have swirled around me. I had conversations with others wanting to know why they should state their pronouns in meetings or why they should consider putting their pronouns in their email signatures. Then a little bit later, I was reading a professional document in which all the pronouns were written with a singular gender even though the document was intended for a diverse group of individuals, identities, and genders. It made me wonder why we were being limited to one gender for all peoples.
In the English language, pronouns are words that takes the place of a noun. Words like he and she, we and they. Many of our common pronouns are also gendered. For this reason, pronouns take on an important role in the lives of many people. Pronouns are, for the most part, how people reveal their genders to others. We use gendered pronouns in our speech, in our writing, often unconsciously and with many assumptions to make ourselves and others known.
Assumptions about other people and their identities within pronouns are often based on binary ideas about gender. Such assumptions can be potentially harmful (intentional or not) and may make a person feel upset, invisible, or disrespected, especially when the wrong pronoun is used. This can often lead to exclusion and alienation that may flow into our lives.
By telling others your pronouns, or putting them in your email signatures, you are recognizing that some of our social assumptions may need to be viewed more critically. You are recognizing that not everyone identifies by these assumptions. You begin conversations that acknowledge that we all have different perspectives and experiences. Conversations from which understanding about gender identities and pronouns can be found. Conversations that can bring us together to learn from each other.
But, in my view, what it really boils down to is respect for others. For some of us, telling others our pronouns, like in an email signature or writing documents with gender-neutral pronouns, may not seem like a big thing to do but for others it can mean a world of difference.