At CHS, we believe in the affirmation of all. It’s woven throughout how we do GOOD each and every day and why we’re passionate about gathering virtually across the state to learn more about topics relevant to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Every year, we serve 59,000+ children and family members across the state… 59,000+ individuals whose identities are important and respected by Team CHS. In addition, we’re home to 1,900+ team members who we’re proud to do GOOD alongside every day.

As an inclusive, affirming environment, we know it is important to dive deeper into topics and issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community so we can best create change in our communities and beyond.

One such topic: the importance of pronouns.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I know firsthand how it feels to be misgendered and want to make sure that other LGBTQ+ team members, as well as the kids, teens and family members we serve, have the chance to openly be who they are and have that identity respected.

So, when my Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Workgroup garnered the opportunity to bring together our CHS family on Zoom to discuss and share more about the topic of pronouns, I was thrilled! Together, we dove deeper into a general pronoun overview and explored why they’re important to prioritize with those we serve and in our workplace.

Together we covered:

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word used to refer to either the people who are tallking (like “I” or “you”) or a person being talked about in the third person (like “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them”). Since some pronouns are gendered (“she/her” and “he/him”), it is important to be intentional about the way we use pronouns as we all work to create as inclusive an environment as possible.

Why do pronouns matter?

Ask yourself how many times someone has used your name or a pronoun to refer to you today. Chances are this has happened countless times. Now, imagine that your coworker, or a family member, or your doctor or a friend routinely calls you by the wrong pronoun. That would be hard. This is why using a person’s chosen name and pronouns is essential to affirming their identity and showing basic respect. The experience of being misgendered – having someone use the incorrect pronouns to refer to you – can be uncomfortable and hurtful. The experience of accidentally misgendering someone can be difficult for both parties. Routinely asking and
providing pronouns helps everyone avoid assumptions and feel comfortable interacting.

Why is it important to use pronouns in our work?

We are surrounded by people we may not realize are part of the LGBTQ+ community, including some of the children, young adults and family members we serve every day, so it’s important to understand the struggles they face day-to-day so we can best partner with them to overcome. By prioritizing the “asking” of proper pronouns and correctly utilizing, we can show that we respect who they are and that they can be authentically themselves when interacting with Team CHS.

This simple act not only affirms respect, but can lead to decreased depression in the LGBTQ+ community, as well. After all, when people use the wrong pronouns for someone (also known as “misgendering”) whether knowingly or unknowingly, it can feel upsetting and hurtful. This effect usually compounds over time and can have a negative effect on other’s mental health and self-esteem.

How should you begin a conversation about pronouns?

The best first step for asking for pronouns is sharing your own, and then asking someone else’s. If you’re in a group, it’s best practice to ask everyone to share pronouns, so you aren’t calling on one specific person to share. The more you show your support and respect for the LGBTQ+ community, the more comfortable someone may be with sharing pronouns.

Pronoun etiquette tips:

  • Create opportunities for people to share their pronouns with you rather than assuming you know their pronouns based on their appearance. For example, when introducing yourself, share your pronouns like this:
    • In one-on-one conversation: “Hi, I’m John and I go by he/him. Nice to meet you.”
    • In a meeting: “Hi everyone. I’m Millie. I’m the program supervisor and I go by she/her.”
    • In your email signature next to your name: E. Wilson (pronouns: they/them/theirs)
  • If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, it’s okay to ask. You can say “What pronouns do you use?” or “What pronouns do you go by? or “What pronouns would you like me to use when I refer to you?”
  • Always use someone’s chosen pronouns unless you’ve been asked not to do so for a specific reason (e.g. safety or privacy concerns)
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! It takes consistency to use someone’s correct pronouns if you previously used different pronouns for that person of if you’re using pronouns that are new to you. Take the time to practice referring to the person with the correct pronouns in conversation and in written communication.
  • If you make a mistake, apologize and move on. Help others by gently correcting them if they misgender someone.

Examples of pronouns in use:

Source: Human Rights Campaign All Children-All Families