Showing preferred pronouns in bios, e-mail signatures, etc

There’s a discussion over in the BBQ Pit about whether people should put their preferred pronouns in their e-mail signatures, their bios, etc.

As I said over there, I think it should become common practice. I was thinking in terms of transgender and other gender non-conforming people – they put their pronoun preferences out there to avoid confusion and to avoid being mis-gendered. However, if only transgender and gender non-conforming people post their preferred pronouns, it basically calls them out as different, other, or weird in some way. Someone else in that other thread also mentioned that it makes sense for companies with a global or diverse workforce. There are many foreign names where I haven’t the faintest idea whether they are typically names for men or women. Even common English-language names like Pat, Charlie, Taylor, and others are pretty ambiguous.

There is someone I work with who has a non-English name that I can’t tell whether it’s a man’s name or woman’s name. And, their voice is ambiguous enough that I haven’t been able to figure it out over the phone, either. This is someone from another office who I have never met in person and I remain in the dark about their gender.

For this thread, maybe it makes sense to focus on whether cis-gender and other gender-conforming people should generally post their pronouns. Here’s an article that says yes:

Why we should start using pronouns | Prospect.

Here’s another one:

I agree with those positions. I think that encouraging everyone to post their preferred pronouns can have two positive effects. First, it will make for a more inclusive environment, where cis-, trans-, and non-gendered people will feel welcome and not singled out. Second, it will avoid confusion, even for people who are gender conforming, but have neutral or uncommon names.

I can’t really think of a negative effect, but I’m willing to learn.

My employer has been encouraging people to do this.

Mine seems to be neutral on it so far, but I imagine it will be encouraged soon. We have lots of Pride and Ally e-mails and events.

What is your view? Should the employer encourage that? Should the employees embrace it?

My response is simply this…

If you have a preference, whether preferred gender pronoun or a name that isn’t the same as the one in your corporate email/profile account, by all means, state your preference. If people mistake it, feel free to remind/correct them. But do not seek solidarity or conformity from those for whom this is a non-issue and who have never been inconvenienced by the default assumption of their gender or name preference.

^^^ ditto

I actually generally agree with you.

I mean, I don’t know how often (if ever) I would refer to someone in an email in the third-person, so it really matters for the title in the introduction.

But it does matter for the title. And I struggle with how to formally address emails to people with gender-neutral names all the time and, since “Pat” is going to be offended if I guess wrong, I spend a disproportionate amount of time on a part of the correspondence that doesn’t really matter.

Although, does it really help transgender individuals? My (very limited) experience with transgendered individuals is that they tend to adopt a new gendered first name and (for email purposes) I’m not going to have any idea whether this was a birth name or not; nor would I care.

In addition to transgender people, there are also gender non-conforming people who prefer “they/them”. I don’t know how you’d pick that up from the name.

You may not on a first transaction. But it’s okay to get it wrong and it’s okay to be corrected. Just like it’s okay to not know how to pronounce some names and then be corrected. We’re humans. We’re meant to interact and imperfection is often a part of that process.

I understand that. But that seems to be only population that such a practice would help (along with people cis- or transgendered who have gender-neutral names). I mean, it doesn’t really change my opinion, but it’s presented as a thing that helps transgendered individuals, but I don’t see how that is.

By “title” do you mean something like “Mr” or “Ms”? Maybe my industry is different, but we never use those. The only titles we might use are military ranks. Everyone else is addressed by their name, either full or personal*. And even the military folk often switch over to name only.

*Personal names can be tricky, but you go with how they sign off or introduce themselves as.

My company has recommended listing your pronouns in your email signature, but the action rate is on the low side. I think because names are preferred.

Yes. (Actual position titles are easy because they are typically gender-neutral). But (and maybe it’s only still a thing in legal practice), I am routinely addressed as “Mr.” and I address emails and correspondence to all sorts of people the same way … making me nervous when it’s a gender-neutral name.

Okay, that makes sense. If your customs require some sort of title and your choices are all gendered, that can make for awkwardness. Do you not have third-person introductory emails? Where someone you know, “introduces” a new person which would include the appropriate title.

I agree with all of this! However, do you see any merit to the argument that, if it’s only gender non-conforming and transgender people who post their pronouns, then they are basically being singled out?

I think it’s best for the company to present it as an option and leave it to the employee to decide whatever they’re most comfortable with. I have no desire to put he/him in my email signature but I’ve got no problem with others doing so.

If it’s a choice I don’t really see it as anyone being singled out. And if we standardized putting preferred pronouns in signatures then people who non-standard pronouns are still going to stick out.

I think it is a choice. The question is, should we all do this? Is it an accommodation that takes little effort for gender conforming people but may have large benefits for non-conforming people.

Not quite yet. I’m going to need to hear something more compelling in that regard.

My reasoning is as follows:

  • Most trans people make the effort to change their names to be more in line with their gender identity. Kaitlin Jenner famously changed her name to fit her gender identity. That seems to be, in my admittedly limited experience, a common practice.
  • Trans-gender people have a general desire to be easily identified and accepted as their preferred gender. It makes sense for them to clearly state their preference if they so choose.
  • There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of LGBTQ activism promotes the ubiquitous practice of preferred gender pronoun tagging as a show of solidarity with trans people. This strikes me as counter-productive.
  • Those who accept trans-gender people but need a little help at first introduction, will be helped by the pronoun primer. But I doubt very much they’ll need help identifying BillyBob in Receiving.
  • Those who do not readily accept that trans-gender people deserve to be respected through the use of their preferred pronouns will not have their minds changed by force of corporate policy or social practice.

I think this is really the key point of your post, and I disagree, for two reasons. First, those who refuse to accept that trans-gender people should be accepted are the ones most likely to look at people showing their pronouns and think, “they’re weird, and I don’t accept them.” But, if nearly everyone did it, it would remove that opportunity for discrimination. Second, if it became commonplace to post your pronouns, it would remove one more obstacle for trans acceptance.

Just like it became commonplace to refer to women as Ms. instead of specifying Mrs. or Miss, depending on marital status, making it commonplace to post pronouns may be another step forward to better overall acceptance.

I don’t see how it would be counterproductive. But rather than speculate, shouldn’t we hear from transgendered individuals what they think? If the notion is controversial in the trans community, then you might as well do whatever you like since there is no clear answer. But I’d like to know what the general consensus is among trans individuals. If many say they appreciate the support of having everyone list their pronouns, then it is support I am happy to give. If they generally don’t care, then inertia sets in and I probably won’t make the effort.

I’ve been trying to find an essay or article either way, by someone from the trans community, and have had no luck so far. I’ve seen many from the broader LGBTQ community promoting the idea, but nothing specifically from a transgender person or group, as far as I know.