English alum Kathryn Kane started exploring the LGBTQ+ community and using they/them pronouns in high school.

At first, Kane asked one friend to use their pronouns. They slowly began asking more of their friends to use them. Now, Kane introduces themself with their pronouns anytime they meet someone new.

Kane said identifying one’s pronouns has become more common, as they’ve seen professors putting theirs in their email signatures. And in May, Instagram added an option for users to list their pronouns.

Linguistics associate professor Laurel Stvan said people have tried to invent a gender neutral singular third-person pronoun, but it’s often hard to make them stick. While using they/them as pronouns causes it to lose some plurality, today it’s used to defer from designating male or female identification, she said.

“What does seem to be working is taking an existing pronoun and turning it into a function of gender neutral,” Stvan said.

People from Generation Z are realizing who they are and defying societal norms, chemistry freshmen Tatiana Jones said. They're realizing there is way more to the world than what society deems the standard.

“My generation is more open to finding out things and more open to being themselves. They're able to discover themselves more than previous generations,” Jones said.

Kane said growing up they weren’t into stereotypically feminine things, like pink and shopping, but it was deeper than that. They/them felt like a better representation of who they were.

“It wasn't just like, ‘Oh yeah, I don't do these things, but I still identify as a woman.’ It was kind of like, ‘Oh well, this seems a lot heavier. This doesn't seem right,’” they said.

Kane said they never strongly identified with female pronouns, so hearing pronouns that resonated with them made them feel more respected and comfortable.

People who are assigned female at birth sometimes have a complicated relationship with womanhood because of patriarchy and societal norms. Kane said they like the neutrality of they/them pronouns.

They said sometimes they have trouble responding when people direct she/her pronouns at them because they don’t realize they’re being spoken to.

It's a numbing feeling to hear the wrong pronouns over and over because you have to recognize that they are talking to you, Kane said.

“It is important to acknowledge someone's pronouns because it makes them feel like they can live authentically, so they can express themselves and feel supported by other people,” they said.

Be straightforward when asking someone's pronouns, Jones said. Introduce yourself and your pronouns and then ask the other person theirs, this lets people know you respect them.

Jones said she has friends who use other pronouns and while it’s different, it’s not hard to accept. If it isn’t hurting anyone and works for them, then that’s just what’s best for them. Not everyone is always going to be comfortable with their assigned pronouns at birth, Jones said.

Using correct pronouns signals you see the other person and you respect how they want to be identified and opens the door for conversations, Stvan said.

Pronouns are something everyone needs to work on, Kane said. We need to make changes to affect society, because we’re preparing for the future now.

While we’ve made great progress, we can always do better, they said.



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