Pronouns are a vital tool to express gender identity and explore life outside of the gender binary. The somewhat limiting ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him’ descriptors aren’t cutting it for some individuals, who have found more diverse pronouns to sit more comfortably for them. The use of ‘they/them’, for example, is perfect for some, while others prefer to adopt newer language such as ‘xe/xem’ or ‘ze/zim’ and more.
The recognition of gender identity, of a chosen name and of the correct pronouns, can have life-altering consequences for people. It’s something that empowers people to be their truest selves – to be proud to do so, and not have to hide.
Remember Starbucks’ Every Name’s a Story ad when the protagonist orders a drink with their new name? For the barista it was an everyday transaction, and probably something they didn’t think twice about. But it was a defining moment in the life of the gender non-conforming teenager, moving away from their deadname for the first time and taking their first steps as their true self: James.
These moments are real – as we saw with the outpouring of similar stories from the trans and non-binary community.
And that’s no surprise. Research from LGBTQ+ youth charity The Trevor Project found that “One in four of LGBTQ+ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that fall outside of the binary construction of gender.”
It’s about time we made sure our world is ready and waiting with open arms to accept this 25% of LGBTQ+ youth that’s outside the gender binary.
Being seen has a huge impact on people. It lifts people up. It shows respect for one another and it champions inclusivity.
Now that’s an exciting future.
The Language of Identity
Our vocabulary is constantly evolving. Words come and go in and out of our vernacular and take on new meanings with changing cultural contexts. Always have, always will.
Gender-neutral pronouns are nothing new either. Literary voices have historically shaped our language, bringing us new words and uses for the way we speak.
According to Them, “The plural “they” shifted to a singular “they” several centuries ago, when writers went in search of a more gender-neutral pronoun; multiple gender-neutral pronouns have come about since and been embraced by members of the trans and nonbinary communities.”
It all sounds fairly straightforward, right?
If you’re sat there feeling a bit panicked having answered ‘no’, then please don’t worry. All it takes is a bit of practice to get into the groove of it all. It’s easier than you might think.
Gender non-conforming individuals, for the most part, want their identity to be understood.
So try. That’s all that’s being asked of you. Make an effort to ask a person’s pronouns if you’re not sure about them. And once they’ve told you, do your darndest to get them right.
You’ll probably get them wrong by accident once or twice. If that happens, apologise and try to do better next time.
Universities are liberal, accepting beacons in the community, so imagine how a prospective student may feel if their first point of contact – an admissions officer or member of an outreach team – had their pronouns in their signature.
Seen and accepted. You can’t beat that for a first impression.
Remember: misgendering and deadnaming on purpose is unacceptable. It has real consequences to people’s mental health and can bring on strong feelings of depression and gender dysphoria. It’s not a joke and should never be done intentionally.
Doing the Work
Here at Net Natives, we care about our team – about the individual people who make the company what it is.
We care if people feel comfortable enough to be themselves, without hiding or holding back.
And we want to remove any awkwardness or fear that a person might feel in asking a company of 100+ people to use different pronouns to what people might assume to be correct.
So how are we going to walk the walk and not just talk the talk?
We’ve gotten started on a few things internally already, which will make a difference for any gender non-conforming members of staff, clients or partners to feel more comfortable.
From introducing ourselves with our pronouns to including them in our communications, coming away from gendered language and normalising the use of ‘they’ when referring to a person, we are very much getting started with our work towards inclusion.
And crucially, we’ve made sure these gestures and acts are completely optional. Whatever you’re comfortable with is just right for us.
Think of it as a sliding scale – some might want to display their pronouns in their display names and by lines, while others may prefer to keep theirs wholly neutral. It’s a two-way street, in which we recognise the importance of everyone having the choice to make for themselves.
As well as internally, it’s our on-going mission to diversify representation in the work we put into the world too. Our creative department and marketing team are striving for diversity in all the work we produce. It’s not something that we’ll ever be finished doing.
As a business with its HQ in Brighton, a town lauded for its openness and accepting nature, it’s our duty to show we understand the importance of gender identity. Not just to our staff, but to our clients around the world, and to our peers in the industry and otherwise.
The simple act of sharing your pronouns goes a long way. This is one of many steps we’re taking to show solidarity with groups who need it most. Trans rights are human rights. Non-binary individuals are valid. Inclusion is important.
Here are some additional resources if you’d like to learn more: