Office of the University Registrar

Pronouns

During the 2019-2020 academic year, the University of Washington will implement an option allowing students and other members of the UW community to express what pronouns they go by in their everyday lives. These pronouns will be integrated into online class rosters and other systems during the year.

International Pronouns Day

Celebrate gender identity and respectful pronoun use on Wednesday, October 16, 2019.

International Pronouns Day “seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.” It’s a day to reflect on and demonstrate how respectful pronoun use cultivates a safer, more inclusive, and welcoming community for everyone, regardless of gender identity or expression. Ways to participate include:

  • Introduce yourself with your pronouns
  • Practice the use of gender-neutral pronouns
  • Rehearse how you recover from mistakes (we all make them!)
  • Add your pronouns to your email signature
  • Share on social media using #HuskyExperience #PronounsDay

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pronoun?

Pronouns like “she”, “him”, and “their” provide a grammatical way to refer to people without using their name. Some pronouns are gendered, while others are gender neutral.

Why are pronouns important?

Pronouns are one of the ways we portray our gender identities. When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking you to respect who they are. In doing so, you can help cultivate a safe and inclusive UW community and learning environment, where individuals feel respected and welcomed for who they are.

How are pronouns used today?

Many UW departments, programs, and activities already offer opportunities for individuals to express and learn what pronouns their members and participants go by. Some departments have also added pronouns to their IT systems, but they aren’t integrated in a holistic or coordinated way.

How will pronouns be improved?

The UW is implementing an option allowing students and other members of the UW community to express their everyday pronouns on Identity.UW, much like their everyday preferred names. Departments will be able to integrate these pronouns consistently into their IT systems, with less overall duplication of effort. These improvements will ease pronoun adoption, promote respectful use, and reduce accidental misuse that results from assuming pronouns based on appearance or name.

Where will pronouns be integrated?

Class rosters are the highest priority use of pronouns, so the Office of the University Registrar and UW-IT are working to integrate pronouns into class rosters for use by faculty and instructors. Other uses will follow after that, such as MyUW and systems (like MyPlan and EARS) used by advisers.

When will the pronoun option be available?

The new pronoun option will be available during the 2019-2020 academic year. We are aiming for the start of winter quarter for use in class rosters. Check back for schedule and progress updates.

What pronouns can I choose?

Pronoun options will include she/her, he/him, they/them, as well as an option to use your name, or to leave your pronouns unspecified. This set of pronoun options offers cisgender, transgender, gender non-binary, and other gender nonconforming individuals equal opportunities to express pronouns that align with their gender identities, while also easing the usability for instructors, advisers, and others who want to use pronouns appropriately.

Is “they” a singular gender-neutral pronoun?

Yes, they/them pronouns have been used as singular gender-neutral pronouns for centuries, and Merriam-Webster recently updated the definition of the word “they” in its dictionary, citing use of they to refer to a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

Does the singular “they” take a singular or plural verb?

Use of “they/them” pronouns takes a plural verb, even when used to refer to one person.

For example, “Sam is a great choice to lead the discussion. They understand this material as well as anyone.”

Are instructors required to use my pronouns?

Instructors are strongly encouraged to use the pronouns expressed by their students, TAs, and others in and out of the classroom. However, they are not required to do so. Instructors always have the option of using a person’s name, rather than a pronoun. It is the safest option when an instructor is unsure what pronouns to use.

How can instructors promote respectful use of pronouns?

When instructors, TAs, and others in the classroom introduce themselves with their pronouns it creates a safe environment for others to share their pronouns too.

For example, “Hello, my name is Alex and I use they/them pronouns.”

This practice also demonstrates an awareness that pronouns need to be learned, rather than assumed based on name or appearance.

What if someone’s pronouns are unspecified?

The unspecified option is available for people who choose not to share what pronouns they use. Instructors and others can refer to these people by name, or by “they/them/their” pronouns as a gender-neutral alternative. However, just because someone’s pronouns are unspecified, it doesn’t mean you should assume their pronouns based on their name or appearance. Navigating these situations requires some discretion. You can respectfully ask someone what pronouns they use, but do so knowing that gender non-conforming people and people transitioning need to come out with their pronouns on their own terms.

How do I respectfully ask someone what pronouns they use?

Ask them “what pronouns do you go by?” or “what pronouns would like me to use?” They will appreciate that you asked so simply and respectfully, and they might reciprocate by asking you what pronouns you go by too.

What if I make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun?

Just apologize, correct yourself, and move on.

For example, “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant they, not he.”

Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is that you don’t make the situation worse for the person by over-apologizing, thereby drawing even more attention to them and putting a burden on them to make you feel better. Just apologize and learn from your mistake.

What if someone else makes a mistake?

Find a polite and quick way to correct them, and then move on.

For example, “Actually, Ty uses he/him pronouns.”

If someone repeatedly uses the wrong pronoun, polite corrections may be appreciated even more. Transgender and gender non-conforming people grow tired from correcting others, and the mark of a true ally is helping them with your gender-affirming support.

What pronoun use is considered offensive?

It’s offensive to use terms like “he-she” and “it” when referring to people in general, and especially to transgender and gender non-conforming people. Using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person—e.g., referring to a transgender woman as “he”—is also offensive.

Should I report offensive behavior?

Yes, you can report it using the UW Bias Reporting Tool. Intentional or malicious pronoun misuse and other offensive behavior has no place in the UW community. People can apologize for accidental misuse, but continued intentional misuse is offensive, should be reported, and may result in disciplinary action because referring to people using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, is disrespectful and can lead to feelings of alienation, exclusion, and overall dysphoria.