Using pronouns at CNTW – Transgender Awareness Week 2020

Posted: 08/11/20

To mark Transgender Awareness Week (9-15 November) our board of directors at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) are sharing the pronouns they use, and encouraging others to get into the habit of doing so as well.

Simon Pearson, a Community Mental Health Practitioner and Chair of the LGBT+ Staff Network at CNTW, said: “This is a simple but impactful way for the Trust to embed values that show we do welcome, support and accept difference.

“The use of pronouns is a positive way to show your support for LGBT+ individuals, and it helps more people than you might think.”

Pronouns are the words that someone would like you to use when talking about them. We all have pronouns. The most common ones are ‘he’, ‘him,’ ‘his’, or ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘hers’. Some people prefer gender-neutral pronouns, like ‘they’, ‘them,’ and ‘theirs’. And there are some people who are still working out what their gender identity is and feel uncomfortable using any pronoun.

Explaining why pronouns are so important, Simon said: “Many people never have to think about what gender pronouns they use. In fact, they might not even be fully aware that they are using them; it is just something they have always done. For these people, this might seem like a trivial issue.

“But especially for people who are transgender or non-binary [a gender identity that is neither exclusively masculine nor feminine], using their preferred pronouns is very important to their identity. When people don’t understand this, or refuse to use someone’s preferred pronouns, it can lead to serious prejudice and even hate crimes.”

Using the wrong pronoun for someone – for example, referring to someone as ‘he’ when they prefer to use ‘she’ – is known as mis-gendering them. This makes people feel invalidated, disrespected, and worthless, and if it keeps happening it can have a very serious effect on their mental wellbeing.

At the moment, people who are transgender or non-binary usually have the burden of telling other people they meet what pronouns they want them to use. This can be an alienating experience, marking them out as ‘different’, and can be quite scary if it is met with prejudice.

This is why the Executive Directors at CNTW are taking the lead in encouraging all CNTW staff to act as allies to the LGBT+ community by normalising sharing their pronouns. They have lent their voices to a short educational video developed by the LGBT+ Network about the importance of pronouns:

We hope that by participating in this, we can play our part in reducing the stigma associated with sharing your pronouns.

Adding them to our email signature, and sharing our pronouns when we meet someone new, is a small action we can all take that will make our society much more inclusive. It’s a simple way of showing that you won’t judge someone, and you’ll respect their identity and their pronouns.

However you identify, be proud of your pronouns and encourage your colleagues, family, and friends to use them as well.

Ken Jarrold CBEChair of the Council of Governors and the Board at CNTW, Non-Executive Lead on the Board for Equality and Diversity, and a member of the LGBT+ Network

Putting this into practice is easy.

You can start by adding something to your email signature and your social media profiles to show what pronouns you are using.

Next, get used to introducing your pronouns when you meet someone new. It’s as simple as saying, “Hi, I’m Tom, and I use the pronouns he/him/his,” or “Hi, I’m Mary, and I use the pronouns she/her/hers.”

If you are introduced to someone and don’t know their pronouns, just ask! Saying, “Hi, what pronouns would you like me to use for you?” is an easy way to make sure that you don’t mis-gender anyone. (It’s important to remember that you can’t assume what gender pronouns someone prefers just by looking at them.) If you don’t know someone’s pronouns when you’re talking about them or writing about them, you can simply use their name to refer to them instead.

At first, it might feel awkward to share pronouns when you meet someone, but after a while you probably won’t think twice about it.

For more information on LGBT+ issues at CNTW, you can visit the LGBT+ network’s webpage, which includes more resources to help you talk inclusively with transgender and non-binary people.