Pronouns – what are they / why do they matter?

Written by Bailie Jones (she/they) and Tana Yager (she/her)

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

What are pronouns & why are they important?

While “pronouns” may not be in your everyday language, you use pronouns all the time. Pronouns replace a proper noun such as a person’s name. 

A person’s pronouns refer to how the person reflects their gender identity. The pronouns he/him and she/her are historically the most traditional pronouns for people typically based upon their sex. Additional pronouns also include, but are not limited to they/them and ze/zir. A person can choose any combination of these words to reflect their pronouns or they can create their own unique ones.

For queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender people, binary pronouns based on the gender identity they were given at birth may not feel correct and may create discomfort. The person’s gender identity may be different from the identity they were assigned at birth. It is important to know and use a person’s gender affirming pronouns. Not using a person’s correct pronouns can increase a person’s risk of depression, suicide, and other mental health concerns.

When it doubt, it is best to sincerely ask someone’s pronouns and to use those they provide.  

The difference between a person’s sex and gender.

A lot of times the terms sex and gender are used reciprocally, but they do not have the same meaning. A person’s sex is a label that is assigned at birth based upon a person’s genitals and known chromosomes. A person’s sex label is on their birth certificate as male, female, or intersex. A person’s gender identity is much more complex, gender is a more  social and legal construct. However, gender goes past anatomy and places standards on a person based on their culture’s gender roles. A person’s sex should not be assumed to reflect their gender identity.

(A non comprehensive list of) Terms to Know

Sex: A label assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have. 

Gender: Gender is a social and legal status that sets standards for a person from society and culture, about behaviors, characteristics, and thoughts. Gender identity is the personal discernment of one’s gender and how they label themselves.

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity aligns with their “assigned” sex at birth.

Transgender: Applies to a person whose gender identity is not the same as their “assigned” sex at birth.

Non-binary:  Non-binary is similar to genderqueer. Non-binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively to the binary masculine or exclusively feminine‍.

Genderqueer: Genderqueer is similar to non-binary. Some consider the term “queer” as offensive and choose not to use it, while others embrace it.

Genderfluid: Applies to a person whose gender identity changes over time or changes at different times.

Sexual Orientation: Refers the emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people; of the same gender, different gender or multiple genders.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

For additional information about pronouns, gender identity, or other mental health topics, consider taking one of our workshops or groups!

You can contact Bailie directly at & Tana at

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