Respecting someone’s gender pronouns is just as important as calling them by their name. Simple as that.
Below, you will find the guidelines that Metro uses to help staff engage respectfully with coworkers and visitors of all gender expressions. There is also a list of resources where you can learn more about gender and pronouns.
What are pronouns, and how do I know which pronouns to use for someone?
A personal pronoun is a word like "she" or "he" that can substitute for a person’s name. Some personal pronouns, like “he,” mark their subject’s gender, while others, like “they,” do not. There are also impersonal pronouns, like “it,” but these guidelines are only concerned with personal pronouns.
“They” is an especially important pronoun because its gender neutrality makes it inclusive. It can be used to refer to people of any gender, including those who are non-binary (neither women nor men), and those whose gender you don’t know.
Besides "they," there are also other gender-neutral pronouns called neopronouns. For instance, some people use the neopronouns "ze/zir/zirs." There are several possible neopronouns, and new ones are being invented all the time. It lies beyond the scope of these guidelines to document them all. Rather, refer to people by the pronouns they specify. And when you’re unsure what these are? Use the most inclusive option, “they,” instead of making an assumption about someone’s gender based on their appearance or name.
For example, you might say, “I heard that HR is hiring a new director named Samantha. I don’t know much about them, but they start in October.” This is a good way to discuss someone you don’t know, because it avoids marking their gender until you learn what it is.
This is where name badges come in especially handy. If a Metro staff member is wearing a name badge (or other uniform item) that lists specific pronouns, use those.
Why is this important?
Calling someone by their name and pronouns honors and affirms their identity. And when you honor and affirm someone's identity, you are honoring and affirming their humanity. It's a simple gesture that means a lot, and sets a tone of mutual respect.
Besides referring to people by their pronouns, it’s also important to refer to people by the names they specify. In the transgender community, "deadnaming" refers to calling a transgender person by their pre-transition name. But the process of choosing new names is common even among people who are not transgender. Many people change their last names after marriage, or divorce, and this isn't considered unusual. Others may choose to go by nicknames rather than their birth names. Just as you would defer to someone's chosen name in either of these instances, it's also important to call transgender and other people by their chosen names.
What if someone changes their pronouns?
Then use the new ones.
There are many reasons why someone might change their pronouns, or use more than one set. Some people, for instance, might identify differently in different social spaces for safety reasons. To learn more about this nuanced and sensitive topic, you are encouraged to look through the resource list below. What’s most important is to allow others – whether staff or visitors – to take the lead in establishing how they’ll be addressed. And again, if you’re not sure what someone’s pronouns are, use “they.”
How can I support gender inclusivity every day?
There are many small, day-to-day things you can do to make your workplace more inclusive, such as:
- Adding your pronouns to your name badge and email signature
- Including your pronouns in your face-to-face introductions. For example, "My name is Jace, and I use he/him pronouns. What pronouns do you use?"
- Avoiding unnecessarily gendered language. So instead of saying "Welcome ladies and gentlemen," you can say, "Welcome everyone." Or, instead of assuming that someone with the name Oscar Diaz should be referred to in an email as “Mr. Diaz,” simply refer to “Oscar Diaz.”
- And, perhaps most of all, using your coworkers' chosen names and pronouns consistently. If you make a mistake, promptly correct yourself and move on. Don’t dwell on the mistake and risk causing further embarrassment.
If you find that using gender inclusive language is a little awkward at first – it’s okay. It’ll take some practice before it becomes second nature. Even people who are familiar with gender inclusive language sometimes feel awkward introducing their pronouns, or asking someone new for theirs. The occasional mistake is to be expected.
But don’t let that stop you: the only way we can make Metro’s spaces more welcoming and inclusive is to practice being more welcoming and inclusive. Using people’s chosen names and pronouns is essential to that practice.
Where can I learn more?
Culture-wide conversation on gender is difficult to summarize because it's continually evolving. Luckily, there are many resources available online for those who'd like to learn more about gender and pronouns.
Basic Rights Oregon
Human Rights Campaign
International Pronouns Day
University of Colorado
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Oxford English Dictionary