Gender, and Inclusion: Pronouns
As we seek to be a radically welcoming congregation, especially to transgender and gender-nonconforming people, a recent topic that has come up is gender pronouns.
Gender pronouns are the pronouns we use when we talk about someone. As an example, we might say "he goes to First Church with his family." In this sentence, "he" and "him" are the pronouns. If the person used "she/her" pronouns, the sentence would be "she goes to First Church with her family."
One very basic thing non-transgender people can do to practice inclusion is to use people's pronouns correctly. Another thing is to practice introducing ourselves with our pronouns. That can often make a more inclusive and safe environment for trans people to also share their pronouns. By making this just part of what we do, we can in some ways lighten the pressure on trans people. We also lower the chance that we unintentionally use the wrong pronouns for someone.
If no one has ever questioned your pronouns or gender, it can be tempting to say you don’t care or give a light-hearted answer, but the respectful and appropriate response is to answer simply, sincerely, and honestly when asked what your pronouns are.
Some people use a singular "they" as a pronoun. It is gender-neutral and is preferred by many transgender or non-binary folks who do not align with being male or female.
Using they/them pronouns is similar to referring to someone whose gender you do not know.
Some examples of sentences with they/them pronouns:
"They go to First Church with their family."
"They are proud of themself for their progress."
"Their cat is the same color as their hair."
Most non-binary people understand that it can be difficult to adjust to third-person pronouns for one person. If you forget someone's pronouns or default to "he" or "she", the best way to amend it is to say "sorry", and then correct your sentence with the right pronouns.
If someone around you uses the wrong pronouns for someone else, a right thing to do is to gently interrupt mid-sentence and correct the pronouns. Although in US dominant culture this might be considered rude, in trans cultures this is considered standard practice and is a way to practice respect and caring.
Some websites where you can learn more about pronouns are:
A neat website where you can practice they/them pronouns, or other sets of pronouns, is "Practice With Pronouns":
Scarlett Shiloh, the Office and Facilities Administrator at First Church, is a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. If you would like more guidance or information, they welcome you to email them at email@example.com!