Personal Gender Pronouns
The USBC encourages gender-neutral language when referring to groups of people (folks, everyone, etc) and to ask about personal gender pronouns without assumption.
How do I ask someone what pronouns they use?: Try asking: "What pronouns do you use?" or "Can you remind me what pronouns you use?" It can feel awkward at first, but it is not half as awkward as making a hurtful assumption. If you are asking as part of an introduction exercise and you want to quickly explain what gender pronouns are, you can try something like this: "Tell us your name, where you come from, and your pronouns. That means the pronouns that you use in reference to yourself.
What if I make a mistake?: Everyone slips up from time to time. The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, like "Sorry, I meant (insert pronoun)." If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on. Please don't belabor how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job.
Why is it important to respect people's pronouns?: Asking and correctly using someone's pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, and/or dysphoric. It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender.
What are some commonly used pronouns?: She/her/hers and he/him/his are a few commonly used pronouns. Never refer to a person as "it" or "he-she". These are offensive slurs used against trans and gender non-conforming individuals. There are also lots of gender-neutral pronouns in use, such as they/them/theirs (used in the singular) or Ze/hir/hir. Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, using their name as a pronoun instead.
What if I notice someone misgendering someone else?: In most cases, it is appropriate to gently correct them without further embarrassing the individual who has been misgendered. This means saying something like "Alex uses the pronoun she," and then moving on.
Are there special considerations for those of us in the breastfeeding field?: Yes! Referring only to "breastfeeding mothers" excludes families, including, but not limited to, those who chestfeed, bottle feed, don't identify as a mother, or have experienced infant loss. The impact is particularly problematic when used in legislation and policies as it can literally exclude many families from protections. It's also important to remember that not all families look alike. Using the word "partner" instead of "husband" or "father" can help make the NBCC (and our field as a whole!) a more inclusive space.
- University of Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center: "Gender Pronouns" webpage
- Central Connecticut State University LGBT Center resource "Preferred Gender Pronouns: For Faculty (Or, How to Take Important Steps in Becoming a Trans Ally!)"