Pronouns aren’t puzzling

A student panel seeks to combat misconceptions about gender identity.


As the transgender population continues to gain more visibility, the Hamline community has sought to be an ally in promoting further understanding and acceptance. In a series of events coordinating with October’s LGBTQIA+ History Month, the Office of Sexuality & Gender Diversity, in partnership with the student organization Spectrum, assembled a panel to answer frequently-asked questions and tackle misconceptions regarding gender identity and pronouns.

“[A pronoun is] a word that refers to someone or something you are talking about,” as defined by the three-student panel, junior Kate Knickerbocker, junior Katie Peterson, and and first-year K McClendon (example: they/them/theirs). “[Pronouns] have to do with gender expression and how we’re identified, other than just by name.” The workshop began with a Kahoot game to practice the correct grammatical use of different pronouns and then led into a slideshow containing various tips and dos-and-don’ts.

The panel suggests asking for another’s pronouns upon introduction, specifying to ask simply for their pronouns instead of their preferred pronouns, as the word preferred unfairly suggests that use of the specified pronouns is optional and dependent on the feelings of the asker. One should also refrain from asking someone to explain their pronouns- the Internet harbors many resources on the subject, if the person needs further clarification- and should not complain that using another’s pronouns is too difficult.

“Practice using someone’s pronouns when they’re not in the room,” the panels slideshow stated as a tip, if a person is unfamiliar with the relevant pronouns.

If one is misgendered- referred to using the wrong pronouns- they should correct the person and remind them of the proper pronouns.

“Don’t feel sorry, just do better,” Peterson said, referring to how he responds upon being misgendered. The same goes for when he hears someone else misgender another person. “It’s just disrespectful.”

If someone provides multiple pronouns upon being asked, one should ask them which ones they would most like to be used. Knickerbocker, who uses both per/pers and she/hers says that per lists the pronouns per would rather use first. The students agreed that it’s beneficial when cisgender people list their pronouns in their online bios- although many might say that it’s unnecessary, it helps to normalize other gender identities and the practice of asking for another’s pronouns.

“My name is… gender neutral… As a kid I was often misgendered as a guy… It just makes people feel safer [when they are referred to using the correct pronouns]”, explains McClellan, who uses they/them.

The panel was a good encouragement to be considerate of the identities of others and should urge Hamline students to ask for their peers’ pronouns.  

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