The U.S. State Department has announced that it is celebrating International Pronouns Day, and shared on social media why many people are now listing their preferred pronouns on their email and Twitter bios with a link to an explainer on a website managed by the State Department.
According to the International Pronouns Day website, the day is designed to push the acceptance and normalization of requiring people to ask each other about their personal pronouns.
Under the policy, which was made popular by Tumblr users and social justice activists in colleges across North America in the mid-2010s, individuals are encouraged to ask about and respect others’ personal pronouns such as “he” or “she,” as well as preferred pronouns like “xe,” “e,” and “fae,” and “bunself.”
Yes, the latter refers to people who identify with bunny pronouns.
“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. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities,” the International Pronouns Day website claims.
According to the State Department, “it’s becoming increasingly common for people to ‘share their pronouns.’”
The agency goes on to explain how pronouns describe a person or people in English grammar, adding that pronouns include gender-neutral terms like “they/them/theirs,” which it says “traditionally refer to a plural number but that today are used by some individuals who identify as gender nonbinary or who prefer not to share gender information.”
“Other pronouns include the feminine she/her/hers and the masculine he/him/his. Some people are pioneering gender-neutral pronouns such as ze/zir/zirs,” the State Department claims.
The government agency continues:
Many Americans are including their pronouns on social media profiles or name tags or as part of email signatures. They state them in meetings, whether online or in person, and at other venues.
Shige Sakurai, author of the five-year-old mypronouns.org, goes by they/them/theirs pronouns. They see sharing pronouns as a way of getting to know someone. Knowing and using someone’s pronouns avoids accidentally assuming an incorrect gender based on a name or an appearance.
“People have the opportunity then to share how they want to be referred to,” said Sakurai, also founder of International Pronouns Day. “Learning names is important too, and learning how to pronounce them correctly is important. To me, [pronouns are] an extension of that — of your name and how you want to be referred to.”
While sharing pronouns is not new — Sakurai has seen it happen in LGBTQI+ communities for more than two decades — it is becoming more common in the United States. (LGBTQI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people, with the “+” signifying all the gender identities and sexual orientations that are not specifically covered by the other initials.)
The State Department points out that with the growing trend, President Joe Biden jumped on board the bandwagon to sign an executive order to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity. He did so during his first days in office.
To that end, the White House also launched a website contact form with gender-neutral pronouns, as well as the non-binary prefix, “Mx.” The State Department announced on June 30 that passport forms will allow applicants to choose male or female gender regardless of what their other documents state.
The State Department says it plans to include options for non-binary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people.