If you are a traditional first year, you might have had a new experience with introducing yourself. During CWU Orientation or Wildcat Welcome Weekend, you might have had to introduce yourself and your preferred pronouns. Some might see this as silly or unnecessary if they have always identified themselves as male/female or she/ her/hers or he/him/his. However, there are staff and student body members often part of the LGBTQ community that want to be called something other than what you might assume their identity as being.
This new addition of introducing our pronouns in person and in email signatures, helps transgender, nonbinary and other gender nonconforming people in stating how they should be addressed. You might see these pronoun usages important in the classroom environment. Some people may ask to be referred to as a specific set of pronouns. It is important that everyone shows respect to others’ desired pronouns.
An example of using pronouns would be when you are in a class discussion and want to base your ideas off of someone else’s. If you don’t know their name but know their pronouns, you can say “I really liked what she, he or they said, because …” It makes them feel assured that they are being recognized by their peers and in their social society.
According to an article about LGBTQ life at Williams, “it” can be an offensive term especially for nonbinary and transgender people. Please do not use this when referring to someone, it is associated with dehumanizing them.
If you are unsure of the proper use of someone’s pronoun, feel free to ask them. From some people that I have talked to, they would prefer to be asked their pronoun rather than be called the wrong pronoun repeatedly
It may be hard for people to speak up about someone using the incorrect pronoun because they don’t want to embarrass or hurt you. Most people on CWU’s campus are patient and willing to give you a straight-forward answer if you ask about pronoun usage.
However, if you feel like asking their pronouns, that is not an invitation to ask them their gender, sexuality or other personal information. If you are friends and they feel comfortable talking to you about it and you are open to listening, let it come naturally. Please do not force them to give any other information that is not needed for class discussions or addressing them. Sharing pronouns can often be uncomfortable or scary enough.
Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. Some people use this day as a way to come out to friends and family about their gender or sexuality. I have come in contact with a lot of people that feel like pronoun use is only for the trans community because they often don’t fit society’s gender norms. Pronouns are used for many other people that do not have to explicitly say their gender or sexuality but identify in the same or different way than what you might assume. You do not have to be a part of the LGBTQ community to use pronouns. We use pronouns when talking about our friends, family, pets and celebrities. CWU bringing pronoun usage into email signatures and class introductions has helped a lot of people feel more comfortable and safer on campus.
According to CWU’s website, CWU is known in Washington for its diversity and inclusiveness. Moving away to college can be scary for a lot of students, especially those of the LGBTQ community. Something as simple as misusing their pronouns can be more harmful than you think. Please be considerate of others and feel free to reach out to CWU’s Diversity and Equity Center. They would be happy to help with any questions.