Pronouns are part of every person’s identity

October 6, 2020

International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people.

International Pronouns Day began in 2018 and takes place on the third Wednesday of October each year — Oct. 21 this year. Individuals and groups will participate in grassroots activities that they determine at the local level.

For more information about International Pronouns Day, visit




  • In English, non-binary students and colleagues may use any of the following singular third-person pronoun combinations (in alphabetical order): he/him, she/her, they/them, xe/xem, ze/zir and others.
  • Some may ask that no pronouns be used and that they be referred to by their name only.
  • Others may use different sets of pronouns in different settings (such as at work and social settings).


  • Because French adjectives, nouns and pronouns reflect the masculine or feminine nature of the objects to which they refer, attempts to make the language more gender inclusive are progressing slowly. That said, a number of gender neutral pronoun are starting to become more widely used.
  • In addition to the standard elle and il, different types of gender-neutral pronouns are beginning to be used by our French-speaking students and colleagues: objective pronouns such as iel, im and ul, subjective pronouns like ael, ille and ol, and more!


  • Do you think the singular use of “they” sounds wrong?
  • According to the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2005), the singular they emerged by the 14th century, about a century after the plural they. It has been commonly employed in everyday English ever since.
  • The singular they was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2019.

General tips

  • Don’t assume. If you have any doubt about which pronouns to use, just ask.
  • If you make a mistake

– apologize privately as soon as you can;
– don’t defend your intentions or justify your mistake;
– simply commit to do better;
– acknowledge the importance of getting their pronouns correct in the future.


ATA adopts pronouns policy

At the 2020 Annual Representative Assembly held virtually in August, delegates voted in favour of two resolutions concerning pronouns.


Be it resolved that the Association provide the means to identify preferred pronouns for all Association events for use on nametags.


Be it resolved that the Association’s online member database allow individuals to identify their preferred pronouns.


The term “preferred pronouns” was used in the drafts of the resolutions above and this language was eventually presented to and approved by ARA. The Association recognizes that pronouns are a matter of identity, not of preference; the word “preferred” should never have been included in these resolutions. The Association apologizes to 2SLGBTQ+ members and allies for this error. The language of these resolutions will be corrected.


Following up

Although there are currently no face-to-face Association meetings or events planned in the near future (all are being held virtually for the time being), work is underway to develop stickers that can be used at future conferences to identify your pronouns on your event identification.

Work is also underway to enable members to update their pronouns, most likely through the profile management tool that’s available through the Association’s website. Stay tuned.

How should you identify your pronouns for online meetings and meetings?

While participating in online meetings and events, it’s recommended that you include your pronouns in your on-screen display and that you mention them if you’re given a chance to introduce yourself.

“To make our non-binary colleagues and students as comfortable as possible, it’s important that we practice and normalize sharing our own pronouns whenever we meet new people,” says Dan Grassick, secretary to the Association’s Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee.


PRISM goes digital

Are you looking for more information about pronouns or for other resources to support your 2SLGBTQ+ students? Check out the online version of the ATA’s PRISM toolkits, now available through LibGuides at!


Information on this page compiled by ATA Dan Grassick (they/them), secretary to the Association’s Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee.

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