Gender Expression: A Quick Guide to Understanding Pronouns

Jennifer Lopez, JLo, has been praised for using gender-neutral pronouns when introducing one of her children at an event in Los Angeles. To honor her transgender daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis will be using the pronouns they/them to describe her Oscar statuette. From other celebrities that support their children and affirm their pronouns to Demi Lovato, Elliot Page, Janelle Monáe, Sam Smith, Halsey, and many more, pronouns are here to celebrate a person’s identity through gender expression. But, what do pronouns really mean?

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Defining Pronouns

Pronouns are defined as a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase. But, pronouns mean and represent so much more than that standard definition in our growing community. Pronouns are used to provide a way to identify or self-select a gender other than what someone else would perceive a person as, based on their appearance. It is a way to embrace masculine and feminine gender expressions or neither. Pronouns are used to refer to someone other than using their name. Starting to sound complex? Don’t worry. We are here to help!

He/Him/His is used by a person that identifies as being masculine or celebrates their masculine traits.

She/Her/Hers are pronouns for those that identify as feminine and honor their feminine traits.

They/Them/Theirs are used to express gender neutrality. Someone that uses these pronouns can identify as both genders or celebrates both gender traits, or neither. Neither could also mean that they do not want to be exclusively identified as either male or female.

How and When to Use Pronouns

The best way to start using pronouns is to first ask the person how they self-identify and their name. Don’t assume. This is one of the most respectful ways to get started when it comes to using They/Them/Theirs, She/Her/Hers, and He/Him/His. Many times, the person may automatically provide their pronouns, how they identify, and how they like to be referred to as. Pronouns are a great way to honor someone and show support, acceptance, inclusivity, respect, and most importantly love. If you are unsure how to use pronouns, ask the person if they are comfortable providing you with examples of how to use their pronouns.

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