Gender Inclusive Pronouns
There are two sets of commonly used gender-neutral pronouns:
sie, hir, hir, hirs, hirself
zie, zir, zir, zirs, zirself
|So instead of…||you may use…||which is pronounced…|
like “sir” with a “z”
like “sirs” with a “z”
Like “sir-self” with a “z
Note: It is often also acceptable to use the third person plural (they, them, their, themselves) instead of the third-person singular (he/she, his/hers, him/her, himself/herself) when referring to someone who has not expressed a clear pronoun choice.
Common Questions on Gender Inclusive Pronoun Usage
Some people don’t feel like traditional gender pronouns (she/her, he/him) fit their gender identities. Transgender, genderqueer, and other gender-nonconforming people may choose different pronouns for themselves. The following tips are a starting point for using pronouns respectfully.
How do I know which pronouns to use?
If the person you’re referring to is a stranger or brief acquaintance (like a server, cashier, fellow bus patron, etc), you may not need to know. If the person is a classmate, student, or coworker, for example, it is best to ask. Try:
- “What pronouns do you use?”
- “How would you like me to refer to you?”
- “How would you like to be addressed?”
- “My name is Tou and my pronouns are he and him. What about you?”
How often do pronouns change?
Remember that people may change their pronouns without changing their name, appearance, or gender identity. Try making pronouns an optional part of introductions or check-ins at meetings or in class.
What if I make a mistake?
Most people appreciate a quick apology and correction at the time of the mistake. Try:
- “Her books are—I’m sorry, hir books are over there.”
By correcting yourself, you’re modeling respectful pronoun use for others in the conversation.
If you only realize the mistake later, a brief apology can help. Try:
- “I’m sorry I used the wrong pronoun earlier.
- I’ll be more careful next time.”
When should I correct others?
Some people may not want a lot of public attention to their pronouns, while others will appreciate you standing up for them. If someone uses the wrong pronoun for a person who isn’t present, try a brief correction:
- “I think Sam uses she and her pronouns. And yes, I’m going to her house later too!”
It can be tough to remember pronouns at first. The best solution is to practice! Correct pronoun use is an easy step toward showing respect for people of every gender.
What might this look like in other languages?
Check out the links below for more information regarding Gender Inclusive Pronoun usage in other languages.
Nonbinary.org: Gender neutral language
Long and comprehensive wiki-style list of ten languages with pronoun options
Multilingual Pronouns list
List of thirty-six languages and some pronoun options- some more detailed than others.
Blog by Non-binary French people (in French, no longer updated but has archive)
Non-binary pronouns in Icelandic (in English)
Non-binary Gender in Japan: link list (in English)
This has terms and narratives; unclear how much about pronouns