Advice: Should Pronouns Be Compulsory?

To mark International Pronouns Day 2020 organisations across the Liverpool City Region are being called upon to pledge their support and normalise the use of pronouns in their everyday lives.

Naturally, this might pose some questions for HR Departments about how they should do this. The most often asked questions we’ve received are: “So, we have to make them compulsory?” or “But everyone knows mine, why do I need to?”.

When considering this, it’s essential we remember the reason why we are implementing and normalising the use of pronouns – to support those colleagues, service users or friends to be free to express themselves, feel respected and go about their lives without being mis-gendered or having to hide their identities.

So to answer those questions:

“Should we make pronouns compulsory in our organisation?”

The way in which colleagues are encouraged to implement and display their pronouns is important. For some, this will be the first time they have encountered pronouns or their importance.

You should also consider those who may not choose to use pronouns, may be questioning their identity or for whom having to put these publicly may be a choice between using the ones for how they present, or ‘out’-ing themselves.

So no, instead of making it compulsory, you should explain to colleagues why it’s important that if they are personally comfortable doing so, displaying their pronouns is not only a simple but massively important way of showing support and acceptance for those who might see them.

The question below should also help with this as will this article here about the importance of pronouns.

“Everyone knows mine, why do I need to?”

For colleagues that have not experienced any anxiety or barriers to sharing their pronouns or gender identity in public, the need for pronouns might not be immediately apparent.

As above, it’s important to explain to these people that quite often the act of displaying their pronouns has much more of an impact on other people, for who, traditionally may feel unable to do so.

By displaying pronouns, you’re sending a clear message to everyone that you, and your workplace (or any other situation) are safe places, accepting and welcome people no matter what their identities.

Being an ally is really important!