Kim explains she, her, and hers

Page 2 Advice
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Dear Kim,

I received an email from a colleague the other day, and her “signature” information at the bottom of the page contained pronouns.  After her name, it said “Pronouns: She, her, hers”.  What’s up with that?



Dear Anonymous,

I get a significant number of emails, and it is rare to see this added in the “signature” area here in the Midwest.  This is really about gender identity and allowing an individual to share how they wish to be addressed.  The East and West coasts have been seeing this additional information in people’s emails for a few years now.  It always seems takes a bit of time for things to reach us in the middle of the country.

Seriously though, while this may seem unusual in our area, it is helpful information.  It also signals a respectfulness towards an individual’s identity.  I have one of those names I’ve seen used for both sexes.  I also work with people whose name alone doesn’t identify gender.  Consequently, by adding pronouns to my email signature, it would allow others to know how I identify myself in the outside world.  (BTW, I haven’t done that, but now I’m thinking about it!)

I recently committed a terrible faux pas.  I referred to a person on the phone by a female pronoun and was corrected that I was speaking to a person who identified as male.  Oops!  I felt terrible and apologized.  That’s all we can do.  Several years ago, there was a movie called “It’s Pat”.  Pat was an androgynous character who appeared on Saturday Night Live.  The premise of the character and subsequent movie was the viewer couldn’t make assumptions about the Pat’s gender.  Was Pat male, female or something else?  Neither SNL nor the movie answered that question.  Now, if Pat had included pronouns in the email signature area, we could properly address Pat!

The point is, we really can’t make assumptions about a person’s gender identity.  By adding pronouns to an email signature, it hurts no one and opens the door to a more respectful conversation.

Just so you know, my pronouns are: She, her, hers too!

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