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Understanding pronouns and how to use them correctly

Using someone's preferred pronouns and identifying your own is a sign of respect and inclusivity.

TAMPA, Fla — You may have noticed people adding their personal pronouns to email signatures, professional and personal social media profiles lately. 

Instagram recently added the gender identity feature to its profiles after adding a dedicated section for identifying personal pronouns. It's just one of the many platforms with the feature. Even rideshare company Lyft and dating apps like OkCupid offer the feature.

This shift in openly identifying one's pronouns is one that shows evidence of acceptance, explained Kiala Emmons, "If I receive an email from a person that's not part of the LGBTQ+ community, it allows me to know that person is at least an ally or someone that is safe." Emmons serves as the trans services program coordinator at Metro Inclusive Health. 

Some of the most common pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his and they/them/theirs. 

She/her/hers are used for someone who may identify as female. He/him/his are used for someone who may identify as male. They/them/theirs are used for someone who may not identify strictly as male or female. 

Sometimes you may see ze/zie/xe and that's a set of pronouns that are used by people who often identify as gender-neutral. Some people will prefer the use of their name only instead of choosing a set of pronouns.

10 Tampa Bay has created a glossary of common LGBTQ+ terminology to help you understand some things you may have heard before.

"It's a sign of respect when you use people's preferred pronouns and says I'm here and I see you and how you want to be seen," said Emmons. She encourages everyone to share theirs as well. So how do you navigate that conversation outside of the digital space where it's easily seen?

"We talk a lot about this in the office setting. Normally, you'd say 'My name is...and my pronouns are she, her and hers. However, you don't always get that opportunity so as long as you ask people without malicious intent it's okay to ask. You can say 'Hi, what pronouns do you use?' but you have to be consistent in that approach," explained Emmons. 

If you learn down the line that you've used the wrong pronouns for someone, don't panic. Use it as a learning experience. Emmons says you should just apologize and correct yourself and use their preferred pronouns going forward.

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