If you want to make a space feel safer for trans and non-binary people, getting people to declare their pronouns along with their name is a good start. This is exactly what I say when I’m kicking off a new group to make this happen.
You’re doing this because
it’s great role modelling for other people to copy you in other groups
if you’re cis (not trans), it’s such a relief for the trans/non-binary people in the room to not have to lead this conversation
there have been several times I’ve realised I would have guessed someone’s gender wrongly and I’ve been very grateful I’ve put this in place
even if there are no surprises, you’re signalling that this is a space where trans and non-binary people are to be respected.
I’m not going to do a bunch of context-setting, as I want you to see how the words stand on their own. Feel free to adapt to your context.
Script for introducing pronouns to a group
“Let’s start by going round and introducing ourselves.
[What are pronouns?]
So, say your name, and also your pronouns — when people refer to you, do they say:
or something else?
[Why is this important?]
We need to create spaces that are inclusive of trans and non-binary people. It’s important that we state our pronouns as we are essentially guessing people’s gender (and therefore their pronouns) all the time by the way they look, how they dress, what their voice sounds like, and so on.
Most of the time we get it right, but sometimes we guess wrong and then it becomes awkward for the person to correct us.
So there’s she/her, he/him and also they/them because some people don’t identify as either male or female (they don’t identify with either side of the gender binary, so they are non-binary) so they may use they/them prounouns.
We actually use they/them to refer to individuals a lot, we just don’t tend to notice..
If you’ve ever watched The Great British Bake Off, in the Technical round the bakers’ bakes are judged anonymously. The judges say things like, ‘This baker needed to leave their cake in the oven another ten minutes. They needed to make their ganache smoother. They’ve been a bit heavy-handed with the icing here’ or whatever.
Similarly, if we found a phone or a random set of keys, we would say ‘Oh gosh, I hope they come back and get them. They must be so worried.’ We wouldn’t say ‘I hope he or she comes back and gets them.’
We use ‘they’ to refer to a singular person all the time.
So go around and say your name, and your pronouns. Are you she/her, he/him, they/them (or something else)?
I’ll go first.
My name’s Meg. My pronouns are she/her.”
I do all of this in a very matter-of-fact, and actually at quite a brisk pace (hence some of the rather long sentences!). I’ve tried to show where I put emphasis, too.
Obviously, if Bake Off isn’t a reference that works in your culture, either put in a different show or just skip it altogether and go with the phone/keys thing.
Sometimes, people run out of steam part of the way through, so if someone doesn’t say their pronouns, just smile and say ‘And what are your pronouns?’