As a parish, we are working on developing the habit of using our pronouns – including them on our name tags at in-person worship, in our names as they show up for Zoom worship or gatherings.
What are pronouns? Pronouns are a linguistic tool — not an identity on their own. They can either strengthen, or be used to weaken, someone’s sense of self in the world. Also, everyone uses pronouns. Someone saying they “don’t believe in pronouns” is the equivalent to not believing in adverbs…or adjectives…or nouns. It is a part of our language.
Why share our pronouns? What we’re coming to learn, together, is that you can’t tell what someone’s pronouns are just by looking at them. That may be a new idea for some of us, but it’s important to hear and understand. If the pronouns people have always used for you (for example, she/her or he/him) are an easy fit with your sense of who you are, try imagining if someone started using the wrong pronouns to talk about you. It wouldn’t feel great! That’s an experience many transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming folks have often – and we’d like to work towards having church be a place where we do better.
We share our pronouns – and notice and use other peoples’ pronouns – because we want to be accurate when talking about others and respectful of the language they use in relation to themself. It’s like getting someone’s name right.
How can I get used to using pronouns in new ways? People learn about pronouns the best with examples. Like, “This is my friend Taylor. They work at the library. You should definitely get to know them better, I think you’d be great friends. Actually, I had lunch with them and their coworkers just yesterday!” (Here’s a good link: https://interactcom.com/lets-talk-about-they-them-pronouns/)
What if I’m not sure of someone’s pronouns? The best way to find out someone’s pronouns is to ask! It can also be helpful to share your own pronouns while you do this. You could say something like “My name is [insert name here] and I use they/them pronouns. How do you like to be referred to?” Sharing your pronouns normalizes the practice and makes space for others to share theirs. (A lot of our youth are already modeling this practice for us!)
I’ve seen some other pronouns out there that looked really strange to me. Some people use what are called neopronouns. They aren’t used very much right now, but they are definitely on the rise. Here’s a table that shows a few examples, so that if you see someone who uses these pronouns or others, you know what you’re seeing.
Thanks for wondering and learning!
You can read more about non-binary folks at church, and find other sources, at the TransEpiscopal website: