How can I learn someone's pronouns?
Updated: Oct 14
Q: I want to make sure I'm not misgendering people, but sometimes I don't know how to find out what pronouns a person uses if they haven't introduced themself with them. I know it's not always a good idea to ask someone's pronouns directly. When I'm talking to someone one-on-one, how can I politely learn their pronouns?
S: If you're comfortable sharing your own pronouns first, that's the best way to create space for someone else to share theirs if they want to; if you share and they don't, I wouldn't then ask directly. (If you're not comfortable sharing yours, you probably have at least some understanding of why others might not want to either.) Otherwise, I think it's often okay in one-on-one settings to ask someone "What pronouns should I use for you?" or something similar (see our post "Should sharing pronouns be mandatory?" for more on why it's a bad idea to do this in group setting). If you need to know for a particular reason, frame it as such, like "What pronouns should I use for you in this [article/introduction/bio]?" or "Do you want pronouns on your nametag?"
In general, it's not imperative that you know the pronouns for everyone you talk to. If you don't know, try to use they/them or the person's name unless you learn otherwise. It's good to create habitual ways for people to easily choose to share this information with you if they want to do that, but don't get hung up on finding out pronouns. Some people don't use them at all. Sometimes it's none of your business!
K: Echoing everything said above. Sharing your pronouns (if you're comfortable doing so) is an invitation for others to share their own. If they do not share their pronouns, don't put them on the spot and ask. If you have to refer to them in the third person, use their name or other gender neutral language until you know otherwise. In group settings, you sometimes can just wait to see how other people who are close to them refer to them, and follow that unless you're told otherwise. I also want to reiterate S.'s point that you don't need to know the pronouns of every person you talk to. We all talk to a lot of people we are unlikely to interact with regularly in the future, or people we're not going to form close relationships with. Nobody owes you their pronouns, and you don't owe anybody yours.