Professors should give students the space to share their pronouns

Asking for pronouns promotes inclusivity in classrooms

We should be making conscious efforts to be better allies. PHOTO: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

by Tamanna T., Staff Writer

It’s common for professors to ask students to introduce themselves in classes. They’re asked their majors and year of study, among other things, but are seldom invited to share their pronouns. Professors should make a conscious effort to give students the option to state pronouns in class to promote inclusivity. 

Through asking for pronouns, professors can create a safe space in classrooms. This makes transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students feel respected, and prevents misgendering. Given that not all students have been exposed to gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs) and neopronouns (such as ze/zir/zirs), giving folks who use these pronouns space to express themselves in classrooms is integral. It’s important to create an inclusive learning environment, and professors are a core part of that. 

Gender construction is a product of a society which prioritizes a binary, in which only two genders are recognized. This is damaging to those who don’t “fit” in this system. It’s time this changes. Pronouns can be an integral part of gender identity, and simply assuming gender based on appearance can be extremely detrimental. Additionally, if a non-binary student is the only person sharing their pronouns, they may feel isolated, but when the entire class is sharing their pronouns, it could provide a sense of relief. 

Small effort from the instructor’s side can make a significant impact on students’ comfort level in classrooms. For example, instructors can normalize pronoun-sharing by mentioning their own pronouns before asking the class to do so. They should also have their pronouns in their Canvas profile and email signatures, and encourage students to do the same. By normalizing sharing pronouns in general and academic settings, we’re putting a stop to the practice of assuming people’s identities from their perceived appearances, and ensuring we’re being better allies to the LGBTQIA2S+ community. 

However, as important as it is to provide space for pronoun-sharing, it shouldn’t be mandatory. This can generate stress in students who are still attempting to figure out their identity. Simply suggesting students can share their pronouns if they’re comfortable is much more empathetic. 

Pronouns are not that complicated — at the end of the day it’s simply about being kind and increasing acceptance for all forms of gender identity.