Pronoun Practices for Teaching and Learning
Creating inclusive learning environments for all of our students to thrive and learn supports our Georgetown values of community in diversity, cura personalis, and educating the whole person. Respecting a person’s choice of name and pronouns is an important aspect of care of the whole person and creates a culture of inclusion in learning spaces that has benefits for all learners.
What is a pronoun?
Pronouns are the words you may like others to use for you in place of your proper name. Some examples include “she/her” or “he/him,” or gender inclusive pronouns, such as “they/them” or “ze/hir,” [pronounced: zee/heer]. Some people use specific pronouns, any pronouns, or none at all.
Here is an example of using “they/them” in a sentence: Marie will be a guest lecturer next week and they are an excellent speaker.
Singular “they” pronouns have been used in the English language for centuries. If you are still struggling with using this, remember, it takes practice!
Why Share Pronouns?
Pronouns can sometimes be a signifier for someone’s gender identity but not always. Do not assume people’s gender identity based on expression (clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms etc.)
Sharing your pronouns gives everyone the opportunity to self-identify instead of assuming someone’s identity or which pronouns they use. Providing space for people to share pronouns is a first step toward respecting people’s identity and creating a more welcoming space for people of all genders.
What if I prefer not to share my pronouns?
Providing space and opportunity for people to share their pronouns does not mean that everyone feels comfortable, or needs to share their pronouns, and that’s ok. In this case, please refrain from using gendered pronouns for that person and refer to the person by their name or use gender inclusive pronouns.
What if I make a mistake?
Misgendering refers to the experience of being labeled by others as a gender other than one that a person identifies with. Because many people (not all) associate their pronouns with their gender identity, using the wrong pronouns intentionally or unintentionally is a form of misgendering.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun when identifying someone, please apologize and continue the conversation using the correct pronouns. Many people find it uncomfortable when people give a long apology for misgendering them and it could also potentially out them.
When in doubt, it is best to use inclusive pronouns like they/them/ theirs. The person can correct you or you can ask them for their gender pronouns.
Tips for cultivating a gender-inclusive community
- Send students a pre-course survey with space to disclose their pronoun information if they would like to do so.
- Include a statement in your syllabus about course expectations that includes the importance of honoring the names and pronouns of all individuals in the class.
- Offer your name and pronouns when introducing yourself, both in person and on your syllabus.
- Include your pronouns in your email signature block, if you are comfortable doing so.
- Encourage students to add pronouns to their Canvas and Zoom profiles, if they so choose, and share the how-to guides for enabling these features. Please keep in mind that some students may not wish to share their pronouns, and that is okay.
- Give all students an opportunity to introduce themselves with their chosen name and share their pronouns, if they choose. Allow students to refrain from disclosing pronouns if they would prefer not to.
- Use gender-inclusive language both for calling on students and in digital communications, for example, consider the use of gender-neutral honorifics in email communication (e.g., “Good Morning” or “Dear [first name]”) or in class (e.g., “Counselor” in a law course).
- For confidentiality reasons, ask whether there are ever circumstances in which an individual would like to be referred to by any other pronouns or no pronouns.
For community members on all campuses: