Pronouns Matter

Pronouns are used in everyday speech and writing to take the place of people's names. We frequently use them without thinking about it. Often, when speaking of someone in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied. These associations are not always accurate or helpful.

Mistaking or assuming peoples' pronouns without asking first, mistakes their gender and sends a harmful message. Using someone's correct gender pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity. Join the Lionel Cantú Queer Resource Center as we aim to advance the knowledge of using everyone's correct gender pronouns and strive for a more inclusive environment.

What are Pronouns?

Pronouns are words that refer to either the people talking (like you or I) or someone or something that is being talked about (like she, they, and this). Gender pronouns (like he or them) specifically refer to people that you are talking about.

Using Gender Pronouns

People may choose to use a variety of pronouns. Below is a list of some commonly used pronouns and how they are used:




Possessive Pronoun







“He studied”

“I called him”

“His pencil”

“That is his”

“He trusts himself”






“She studied”

“I called her”

“Her pencil”

“That is hers”

“She trusts herself”






“They studied”

“I called them”

“Their pencil”

“That is theirs”

“They trust themselves”

Ze or Zie (“zee”)

Hir (“heer”)




“Ze studied”

“I called hir”

 “Hir pencil”

 “That is hirs”

 “Ze trusts hirself”

This is not an exhaustive list. It is good practice to invite someone to share their pronouns with you.

Why is it important for UCSC faculty, staff, and students to respect gender pronouns?

  • The University of California's nondiscrimination policy includes protections for sex and gender identities. A key element of creating a safe space for people of all sexes and gender identities is the respectful use of gender pronouns.
  • The UCSC Principles of Community sets forth a clear list of guidelines for all members of the UCSC community to follow in an effort to promote and protect an environment that values and supports every person in an atmosphere of civility, honesty, cooperation, professionalism, and fairness.
  • Asking UCSC community members what their gender pronouns are and consistently using them correctly is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. This can determine within the first few minutes if they will feel respected at UCSC or not.
  • Discussing and correctly using gender pronouns sets a tone of allyship. It can truly make all of the difference, especially for new community members that may feel particularly vulnerable in a new environment.
  • You can't always know what someone's gender pronoun is by looking at them. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or hurt.
  • Many people may be learning about gender pronouns for the first time, so this will be a learning opportunity for the UCSC community. You will be setting an example for your colleagues.

How can I be inclusive in using and respecting gender pronouns?

Incorporate gender pronouns in everyday use, with these strategies:

  • Edit your email signature to include your pronouns
  • Add your pronouns after your name in video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meets, etc.)
  • Verbal introductions and check-ins are great opportunities to solicit gender pronouns. As names and pronouns can change over time, it is preferable to regularly incorporate these questions into meetings and introductions. Asking about a person's pronouns may initially feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it is preferable to making hurtful assumptions and using the wrong pronoun. Here are some ways you can do this:
    • "What pronouns do you use?"
    • "How would you like me to refer to you?"
    • "How would you like to be addressed?"
    • "Can you remind me which pronouns you like for yourself?"
    • "My name is Joshua and my pronouns are he, him, and his. What about you?"

Educational Resources – Resources on Personal Pronouns provides practical information on sharing, asking, and understanding the use of pronouns, including gender-neutral pronouns.


“It’s OK To Use “They” To Describe One Person: Here’s Why


“Want to know how to ask people about their pronouns? Here’s why you already do” by 

Dr. Lal Zimman, UCSB Asst. Professor of Linguistics helps frame the social use of pronouns and names.


“Misgendering” refers to using the wrong pronouns or other gendered language for a person. Students speak out about the impact of misgendering in this video from the Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know:


Several articles address how the use of “them/them/their” as a singular pronoun has evolved, including the Chronicle of Higher Education in “When Will ‘They’ Ever Learn?”


A special thank you to the UCR LGBT Resource Center and the UCSF LGBT Resource Center for providing the model for this page!