Most discussions surrounding pronouns centre on using them as a way to demonstrate allyship, as their use signals awareness and creates a space for others to openly express their identity.
This is especially significant for trans or non-binary individuals who want to be addressed in more gender-neutral terms such as ‘They’ or for whom pronouns are an important part of affirming their identity.
“Great for them, but why do I need to add my pronouns. I’m obviously a [man/woman* delete as appropriate]”. This is a refrain I often hear and one that, on the face of it, seems perfectly reasonable, especially if you have a name strongly associated with the male or female gender. Or so it may seem.
In fact, I knew nothing of pronouns and their importance to the trans and non-binary community until several years ago. The discovery and rapid change we’ve seen over the last two or so years has put a smile on my face. Partly because it’s great to see such simple, overt allyship, but also because it has helped stem the flow of mail I receive addressed to ‘Mr Bola Gibson’!
If we really think about it, pronouns are helpful because they’re helpful! If you’ve never met someone before and their name is ‘Dr Smith’, ‘Sam’, or even ‘Bola’, how do you address them or mention them to another colleague? Pronouns take the guessing game away and allow you to use the correct form of address to respect an individual’s identity.
As I said, they’re useful.
Aside from my joy at finally getting emails to Ms B. Gibson, pronouns support trans and non-binary individuals who wish to disclose their gender identity while demonstrating your support and acceptance of others’ identities.
This simple action of allyship can have a significant impact because if we can collectively normalise the use of pronouns, it will alleviate the need for individuals to explain their preferred pronouns and essentially ‘come out’ every time they meet a new group. This can create a more welcoming workplace environment by fostering a culture where individuals feel accepted, included and seen.
So next time you update your email signature, check MS Teams or introduce yourself to a new group of people, think about sharing your pronouns as a show of allyship and taking the guessing game away.
To mark Pride Month, Bola, and the Osborne Clarke team, have launched pronoun badges for employees who want to display their pronouns as the organisation strives to create an environment where everyone feels free to express their identity.