As part of C2021’s commitment to creating welcoming spaces, we recognize the importance of acknowledging and respecting individual identities. As part of our registration process, delegates will be encouraged to specify their pronoun(s) which will appear as part of their conference name tag (along with their name and organization).
Why Specify Pronouns
“Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. Personal names and pronouns are two fundamental ways we express gender and how others perceive our gender. Traditional gender pronouns (she/her, he/him) do not fit everyone’s gender identity.” (Ontario Human Rights Commission)
The words people use to describe themselves and others are critical to their mental health and social inclusion. Respect for pronouns right terms can affirm identities and challenge discriminatory attitudes. Disrespect for pronouns is demeaning and can reinforce systemic exclusion and is a serious threat to the mental health of impacted individuals. This is as true today for non-binary gender pronouns like “they” as it was for the evolution of the 1970’s feminist movement to reject the use of “he” as a generic pronoun.” The Mental Health Commission of Canada cites having one’s pronouns respected as a protective factor against suicide by transgender people.
Specifying your Pronouns
As part of the C2021 registration process, each delegate will be encouraged to identify their pronouns as follows (multiple selections allowed):
- She / her
- He / him
- They / them
- Zie / zir
- Another (please specify)
- No pronouns; only refer to me by name
- Prefer not to say
Why Should Cisgender People Specify Their Pronouns
To truly create a welcoming and safe space, it is necessary to normalize the specification of personal pronouns by all delegates:
“It can be a relatively risk-free way for cisgender people to show they’re aware of the importance of pronouns, [and] to remind their cis peers that they should be thinking about how people choose to be referred to,” says Margaret Robinson, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. Robinson is a Two-Spirit person from Eski’kewaq, and a member of Lennox Island First Nation, whose pronouns are she/her. … It also shows gender-marginalized people that you are an ally, says Airton. “[If the receptionist at my doctor’s office] has pronouns on the sign with their name that sits on their desk, that is tremendously significant to me, … (N. Michie, Chatelaine, Dec. 8, 2020)
Acknowledging People’s Pronouns
It is important to respect everyone’s specified pronouns. If you are not familiar with using non-binary gender pronouns, Egale Canada notes that “it is normal to take practice when adopting a new habit, it is also important to demonstrate genuine effort. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun when referring to someone, even if they are not present, simply correct yourself and commit to getting it right next time. … Everyone makes mistakes, it is okay. After you have apologized, do not dwell on your mistake. Remember it is not the responsibility of the person you have misgendered to address your feelings about having slipped up.” (Egale Canada)
It is also important to realize that one’s framing of gender identity is deeply personal and pronouns do not necessarily point to any particular gender identity. It is not necessary to know someone’s gender and if/when someone shares their pronouns, but it is critical to honor them. Conversely, it is important to share pronouns to challenge the ways in which we have been conditioned to make assumptions about people that can be damaging toward trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming/gender diverse people.
C2021’s Virtual Code of Conduct will help us create a welcoming and safe space for all delegates. Sharing, using and respecting peoples’ pronouns is an important part of that.
There are lots of great, easy-to-read resources out there for you to learn more. Here are a few:
- Gender Wiki
- Inclusive and Affirming Language, Egale Canada
- Know Your Gender Pronouns, Egale Canada
- Pronoun Usage Guide, Egale Canada
- Questions and answers about gender identity and pronouns, Ontario Human Rights Commission.
- Sharing Your Pronouns—What It Means And Why You Should Consider It, N.Michie, Chatelaine, Dec. 8, 2020
- The Gender Unicorn, Trans Student Educational Resources
C2021 would like to thank and acknowledge Christine Hsu (they/them, she/her), Diversity & Inclusion Learning Consultant | Strategist, Systems & Instructional Designer, for their guidance on C2021’s pronoun strategy. As Christine rightly notes, creating a welcoming conference space goes far beyond just sharing pronouns and needs to include compensated work for trans and nonbinary folks to be considered effective allyship. Christine works with conference organizers on planning day-to-day execution that ensures the conference as a whole is safer, that there are folks people can go to for support, and to hold the organizers accountable when incidents happen.
A huge thanks and shout out also to Andrealisa Belzer, the Co-lead of C2021’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for her commitment and insights into creating safe and welcoming places for all conference delegates, including gender and agender diverse folks.