London: One of Scotland’s leading universities is set to hand out pronoun badges to freshers joining in a new term so they know whether to refer to each other as “he”, “she” or “they”.
The move by the Edinburgh University is intended to avoid any potential “misgendering” of non-binary or transgender students, who may display the physical attributes of one gender, while associating more closely with another or none at all, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Kai O’Doherty, the vice president for welfare at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, announced that pronoun badges will be available throughout the ‘Welcome Week’, which takes place before the official start of term next month.
The students’ union also published a guide to pronouns, which explains why it is important to “normalise” the practice of sharing gender pronouns.
“Many people assume that the pronouns they should use for an individual are obvious: people who look like men should be referred to using he/him, and people who look like women should be referred to as she/her,” it said.
The guide explains that making these assumptions can be “frustrating and harmful” for transgender on non-binary students, who may in fact prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, the newspaper reported.
“If we choose to make assumptions about which pronouns are correct, we risk misgendering people and/or singling out trans people who want to clarify their pronouns,” it said.
The guide advises that saying you “don’t care” which pronoun is used is offensive, as it “suggests that trans folks are silly for requesting that their pronouns be respected”.
Asking people about their “preferred” pronoun should also be avoided, as it can imply that pronouns are a mere preference rather than a necessity.
Using the term “preferred” can also “isolate and alienate” transgender people, it said.
The guide explains how as well as using the correct pronouns for fellow students when you meet them for the first time, so too must students ensure they are using the right pronouns for existing acquaintances.
Students should bare in mind that gender is “fluid” so even if you have used a particular pronoun for someone in the past, this may not apply indefinitely.
Pronoun badges are the latest form of linguistic etiquette being explored by leading British universities.
Elsewhere, students and academics have been encouraged to sign their email with their names, titles, telephone numbers and whether they like to be known as “he/him”, “she/her” or “they/them”.