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Should sharing pronouns be mandatory?

Updated: Mar 13

Q: Would you address the practice of mandatory pronoun sharing? This is an important discussion worth having on here as there's a lot of nuance to the privilege of being able to share your pronouns safely. I'm a fan of this article ( but it would be good to hear other thoughts on this.

Note for clarity: We're defining "mandatory pronoun sharing" as systems where people are required to share pronouns in order to participate, such as forms with a pronoun field that is not optional, or situations where someone is explicitly told to share their pronouns and not permitted to opt out (or must draw attention to themself in order to do so). This is not synonymous with the practice of giving space for pronoun sharing if people want to, such as an optional pronoun field on a form or inviting people to share their pronouns if they like. -S

K: I can't see the article, but my thoughts on mandatory pronoun sharing are as follows:

Mandatory pronoun sharing forces many trans and gender diverse people into the position of outing themselves or misgendering themselves if their pronouns do not match the expectations others have of them, based on their appearance.

In many one-on-one settings, I will introduce myself with my pronouns, and it is up to the other person to volunteer their own if they are interested in doing so. If they do not share their pronouns, I do not follow up to ask.

I think it's good that pronouns are increasingly becoming part of group introductions, but it is sometimes handled irresponsibly. In group settings, the person introducing the activity needs to be clear about what pronouns are (because, increasingly, people don't know what pronouns are and assume they do not have pronouns if they are cis) and that it is absolutely optional to share them. If a participant does not include their pronouns, do not follow up and ask what they are.

I also think it is important to not make assumptions about why another person might not be sharing their pronouns, because there are lots of reasons why someone might not beyond that they're transphobic or trans and gender diverse and don't want to out themselves.

S: Agreed. (I can't access the paywalled article either, so these are just my own thoughts.)

As with many things, pronoun sharing is great if it's optional and potentially very harmful if it's forced. K's last point is extremely important, so I'm going to describe a few situations that demonstrate it (most of these are not actually hypothetical, but I'll anonymize them).

Pronoun sharing is not safe unless you are in a context where it is safe for everyone present to know your correct pronouns. Envision a student who is out in college but not to his family. If pronoun sharing is required in a meeting with people from both aspects of his life, this person is forced to either out himself (possibly risking his financial support, housing, and/or personal safety) or to misgender himself (which feels horrible to a lot of people, and may additionally confuse others who are present in ways that are difficult for the student to navigate later). Both are options are harmful in different ways, and easily avoided by letting people skip sharing their pronouns without comment.

Another type of situation is when one doesn't know who will have access to the information. A job application with a required pronoun field forces some applicants to decide whether to out themselves by sharing their correct pronouns, or to put something else in case that information endangers their chances of being hired. This is a decision that can be much more safely made once the applicant has learned more about the workplace and search committee; it is very difficult to tell how one will be received based purely on the job posting and public information about the place.

Quite apart from safety and risk of outing, there are any number of trans and gender diverse people who simply don't want to share their pronouns in particular situations or perhaps ever. Some people don't use any pronouns; some have spent enough of their lives fighting to be recognized as the gender they are that being asked is hurtful to them. It doesn't matter what the reasons are; forcing pronoun sharing isn't a trans-friendly act and is actually the opposite. And to be clear, requiring this isn't okay regardless of one's own gender; most of the mandatory pronoun sharing I've seen has actually been pushed by trans and gender diverse people who assume that anyone who doesn't want to must be cisgender and ignorant. I once was in a social event exclusively for trans people at which the (trans) facilitator told everyone to share their pronouns in their verbal introductions. One person simply offered their name, at which point the facilitator stopped and demanded pronouns as well. The person then had to explain that they did not want to supply pronouns; the meeting moved on, but the person was clearly very uncomfortable and did not engage any further. By pushing for personal information that they had no need to know and no right to expect, the facilitator turned what should have been a safe and supportive space into an unwelcoming one (for the individual in question as well as for those of us who were disturbed by their actions).

These aren't the only possible reasons why pronoun sharing shouldn't be required, but they ought to get the point across. If it's optional? Yes! Share your own pronouns if you're comfortable doing that; this is an implicit invitation and reminder to others that they can do the same if they so choose. Put an optional pronoun field on your application forms (open-ended, of course). But never, ever require it as a general practice, and do not directly demand that any individual tell you their pronouns.

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