Celebrate International Pronouns Day with ODE!

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International Pronouns Day, October 20, 2021

Celebrate International Pronouns Day with ODE!

pronouns on rainbow banner 2

October 20, 2021 

This International Pronouns Day, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is celebrating by sharing learning opportunities about using gender-affirming pronouns and best practices for communications. Pronouns are a public part of speech, commonly used to refer to someone in the third person, for example ‘she’, ‘they’, or ‘him.’ We can’t know someone’s pronouns based on their appearance, or gender expression. 

Pronoun sharing within the workplace and throughout school communities is an important opportunity to build trust and connection with transgender, non-binary, two-spirit colleagues, students, friends, and community members. When we do this, we model listening and following the leadership of groups who are fighting oppression. This practice came from people of color in non-binary and trans communities, who recognized that using correct pronouns can deeply impact the safety and well-being of gender-diverse people. When we collectively share our names and pronouns, we can share the burden of fighting against injustice, and we can show others’ they will be supported in coming out or “letting you in.” 

GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey reported that 22.8% of students were prevented from using chosen names/pronouns. Using correct names and pronouns is an important part of increasing safety, connection, and belonging, for trans, non-binary, and two-spirit students. ODE recognizes the need to expand this effort within the agency. 

Affirming pronoun use is aligned with ODE’s equity stance and is made all the more meaningful when we commit agency- and community-wide to put these words into practice. As the 5th graders of Randall Elementary School remind us, Words Matter

Tips for Pronoun Sharing 

  • If you are comfortable, share your pronouns when you’re introducing yourself at the start of a meeting 
    • “I’m (Name) and I use she and they pronouns” 
  • Do not require or pressure employees or students who do not voluntarily share their pronouns to share their pronouns. Some employees or students may not feel safe or are not ready to “come out” to their coworkers or to other students or may be choosing to not share in support of another coworker or student who is not ready to “come-out.”
  • Change your Zoom name to include your pronouns, every time 
    • Name, (she/they), ODE 
  • Include pronouns in your ODE email signature and possibly link to resources.  
  • Notice, practice, and use others’ correct and affirming pronouns when they are generous enough to share these with you.

Tips for Gender Inclusive Language 

  • We don’t say “preferred” pronouns because pronouns are a significant part of who a person is, and not just a preference (an example of preference is an ice cream flavor).
  • Practice, practice, practice! Use gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” and “ze” while visualizing the person who uses them. This is especially useful to do right before you’re about to see the person. 
  • When addressing groups of people or people whose pronouns you haven’t been told, use gender-neutral language such as, “siblings,” “third graders,” “students”, “everyone,” “folks,” “all,” or “y’all,” rather than “brothers and sisters,” “boys and girls,” “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am,” or “sir.” This includes internal and external-facing communication from ODE.
  • Use descriptive language if you do not know a person’s gender, pronouns, or name. e.g. Can you give this paper to the person across the room with the white t-shirt and short brown hair? 
  • Consider ways in which multilingual communities can access gender neutrality and affirmation in languages of origin

Tips for How to “Fail” Well 

Supporting trans, non-binary, and two-spirit colleagues and communities is not about getting it right 100% of the time, it’s about commitment to growth and acknowledging the harmful impact of our words sometimes do have. Here are a few tips for how to react when you “get it wrong” along the way:

  • Listen and Notice when a new name or pronouns are shared with you or when a system-impacted person lets you know you’ve caused harm. 
  • Gently correct others’ when someone who is not present is mis-gendered with the wrong name or pronouns.
  • If someone corrects your pronoun usage: thank them, insert the correct pronoun, and move on. Do not apologize profusely or ask the person you’ve harmed to tend to your emotional needs at that moment.
  • Apologize or check-in offline to show support, and then be sure to practice and reduce your incorrect pronoun use in the future. 
  • Most importantly, take what you’ve learned and use it to fuel greater humility, learning, listening, growth, self-educating, action, advocacy.

Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️‍🌈 on Unsplash

Sources & Resources 

Questions? Connections? 

Please reach out to us at ode.sexed@state.or.us

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