Gender Pronouns

Sharon Raz

The following are commonly asked questions about Preferred Gender Pronouns and ways to use them in our classrooms. Resources adapted from “Preferred Gender Pronouns For Faculty,” materials written by Mateo Medina for Hampshire College & “Gender Pronouns 101,” article written by Logan Meza at

What is a Pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (like I or you) or someone or something that is
being talked about (like she, I, them, and this). Gender pronouns (like he and hers and them) specifically
refer to people that you are talking about.

What is a “Gender Pronoun”?

A “gender pronoun” is the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves. Gender Pronouns are the
pronouns that we use to refer to people in sentences and conversation.

What are some examples of Gender Pronouns?

Gender pronouns can look like and are not limited to

  • he/him/his (masculine pronouns)
  • she/her/hers (feminine pronouns)
  • they/them/theirs (neutral pronouns)
  • ze/zir/zirs (neutral pronouns)
  • ze/hir/hirs (neutral pronouns)

Here are examples of Gender Pronouns in use.

She, Her, Hers
If Chris’s gender pronouns are she, her, and hers, you could say “Chris ate her food because she was

They, them, theirs (Chris ate their food because they were hungry.)
This is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun…. And yes, it can in fact be used in the singular.
You can use this pronoun as a neutral identifier if you are unsure what pronoun someone uses.

Ze, hir (Chris ate hir food because ze was hungry.)
Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they.
Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.

Just my name please! (Chris ate Chris’s food because Chris was hungry)
Some people do not to use pronouns at all, using their name as a pronoun instead.

As educators, we can take small steps to make sure all students feel welcome and affirmed in our class regardless of their gender identity. Being thoughtful about how we use pronouns is a meaningful way to support students whose gender might be different from what appears on their birth certificates. Many students don’t feel comfortable, or safe, expressing their true gender identity, particularly if they are young or early in the process of discovering their identity. By clearly telling everyone in the room that you respect people of all gender identities, you are telling all your students: “It’s OK to be you.” Asking students of all ages what name and pronouns they would like you to use is a great first step.

  • Start with offering your name and pronouns when introducing yourself to the class. Include your pronouns in your Canvas page, Zoom name, email signature, and syllabus.
  • Substitute gendered language with more inclusive language, such as “everybody,” “folks,” or “this person”, or use names.
  • Try asking: “What are your preferred pronouns?” or “Which pronouns do you like to hear?” or “Can you remind me which pronouns you like for yourself?” It can feel awkward at first, but it is not half as awkward as getting it wrong or making a hurtful assumption.
    • You may want to ask your students in formats exclusive to you, like a syllabus quiz; some students may feel comfortable disclosing their gender identity to you, but not the other students in the class.
  • If you are asking as part of an introduction exercise and you want to quickly explain what a PGP is, you can try something like this: “Tell us your name, where you come from, and your preferred pronoun. That means the pronoun you like to be referred to with. For example, I’m Sharon, I’m from Israel, and I like to be referred to with she, her, and hers pronouns. So you could say, ‘she went to her car’ if you were talking about me.”
  • Be prepared to make a mistake—and to apologize: Despite our best efforts, we sometimes misgender people. As a culture, we are in the habit of assuming pronouns based on appearance. This habit can be hard to break. When you misgender someone, correct yourself, apologize, and move on. You don’t need to justify yourself or overly apologize. It’s OK. But it’s important to challenge yourself to get it right the next time. 
  • If you hear other students or faculty using the wrong pronouns for a student, check-in with the student to see if and how they would like you to address it. They might not want to be the object of someone else’s political education. But if it becomes an ongoing problem, don’t ignore it.

For more information on gender pronouns, please visit: Gender Pronouns final draft 10.23.17.pdf ( To find the following graphics, please visit TSER: Information and Graphics.






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Diversity and Social Justice - Faculty Guide (2021 Edition) Copyright © 2021 by Sharon Raz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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