What are pronouns?

‘I’, ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘they’ and ‘we’ are just a handful of common pronouns used every day in the English language. These pronouns are used to identify or refer to somebody, particularly if you have already used their name.

What does it mean to use ‘gendered pronouns’?

Some of the most frequently used pronouns are traditionally gendered. For instance, the terms ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘her’ and ‘him’ are all associated with a particular gender.

Gender neutral (or gender inclusive) pronouns are those which are not gender-specific, like ‘they’ and ‘them’. Using these pronouns means that you are not labelling somebody as a particular gender, which can be especially important for individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

You use these pronouns in the same way as you would use common gendered pronouns. For example, instead of saying ‘Charlotte is very tired. She is going to bed’, you would say ‘Charlotte is very tired. They are going to bed’.

Gender and physical appearance

It’s really important to note that physical appearance does not equate to gender, and as such you should never assume that somebody identifies in a particular way because of how they look. If someone asks that you use a particular set of pronouns for them, it’s important that you do so. By misusing gendered pronouns, you may also be misgendering an individual, which can be upsetting and frustrating for them.

Help challenge the narrative

We encourage everybody to challenge the narrative that pronouns can be assumed by actively sharing their own pronouns. Here at Durham SU, we all have an additional line in our e-mail signatures and we wear badges displaying our pronouns. Sharing your own pronouns is a great way of promoting gender inclusivity and helps to create safe and supportive spaces for all members of our community. You can pick up your own pronoun badge from Durham SU reception.

Changing the way you think about and use language can take time, especially as society has traditionally used gendered pronouns. If you make a mistake, just apologise, correct yourself and continue. Making the effort to consciously challenge the norm is the most important thing!

Find out more

Why not check out Durham SU’s LGBT+ and Trans Associations? Durham SU’s Associations bring together students from underrepresented groups to provide safe spaces to meet, make friends, lobby for change and make sure that everyone feels at home in Durham.