Gender Identity, Expression, and Pronouns

Gonzaga University’s Commitment to Human Diversity

We aspire to create a university environment that is welcoming and accessible to all students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation.


Gonzaga University’s Commitment to Cura Personalis

A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicated that chosen name use is linked to reduced depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior among transgender youth.  Researchers interviewed transgender youths ages 15 to 21 and asked whether young people could use their chosen name at school, home, work and with friends.  Compared with peers who could not use their chosen name in any context, young people who could use their name in all four areas experienced:


o   71% fewer symptoms of severe depression,

o   34% decrease in reported thoughts of suicide

o   65% decrease in suicidal attempts


Russell, S. T., Pollitt, A. M., Li, G., & Grossman, A. H. (2018). Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health63(4), 503–505. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.02.003


Best Practices

Fellow Jesuit universities also have gender affirming policies and procedures, including:


·       Georgetown University’s Preferred Name Policy

·       Santa Clara University’s Resources for Trans and Gender Nonconforming Students

·       University of San Francisco’s Gender Inclusive Housing and Preferred Name Policy


In addition, 272 colleges and universities provide gender-inclusive housing:


Gender Pronouns


What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or a noun phrase.  Pronouns refer to either a noun that has already been mentioned or to a noun that does not need to be named specifically.


What are personal pronouns?

Personal pronouns refer to the person or people speaking or writing (first person), the person or people being spoken to (second person), or other people or thing (third person).  Common personal pronouns include “she/her/hers”, “he/him/his”, or “they/them/theirs”.


What are neopronouns?

Neopronouns are new pronouns which have been created for the specific use of having a singular genderless pronoun.  Neopronouns are used exactly the same way as common personal pronouns, like “she/he”.  Popular neoprouns include “se/zir/zirs”, “per/pers”, “xe/xem/xyr”, “ze/hir/hirs”, “ey/em”, and “fae/faer”.


Why are pronouns important?

You can’t always tell someone’s pronouns by looking at them, so asking for their pronouns demonstrates respect to their gender identity.


How do I ask for someone’s pronouns?

There are a couple different ways to respectfully ask someone for their pronouns.  When introducing yourself, you can say, “My name is                             and my pronouns are                  .  People will usually follow suit.  You can also simply ask, “What are your pronouns?” or “What pronouns do you use?”  It is best to do this one on one if possible, so people are not outed or made to feel on display.


How do I use “they/them” as singular pronouns?

In English, the singular “they/them” has been used since the 14th century, and top sources on linguistics, such as Webster's, considers “they/them” to be correct in the singular.  Use “they/them” pronouns the same way you would use “she/he”, e.g. “They went to the store.”  You should still use “they/them” pronouns in a grammatically correct way.  For instance, the correct way to say that someone who uses “they/them” pronouns is nonbinary would be “they are nonbinary” – not “they is nonbinary.”


What pronouns should I use for a non-binary person?

There is no specific nonbinary pronoun.  Use whatever they want you to use.


What if I mistake someone’s pronouns?

Apologize in a brief way, correct yourself, and move on.  Do not try to guilt trip someone because their pronouns are “difficult” or belabor that you are “trying super hard to get better” or lament that you’re an “awful person” for forgetting.  This will just draw more attention to your mistake and could make the person you misgendered feel worse.  Here’s an example of how you could apologize: “She did – sorry, they did – the work last night.”  That is all you have to say.


Links for more pronoun information and practice


Gender Inclusive Professional Writing


American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines

“Gender offers an added layer of specificity when interpreting patterns or phenomena of human behavior.  However, the terms related to gender and sex are often conflated, making precision essential to writing about gender and/or sex without bias.”


Associate Press (AP)

They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.”


Chicago Style Guidelines

“Chicago accepts this use of singular they in speech and informal writing.  For formal writing, most modern style and usage manuals have not accepted this usage until recently, if at all. CMOS 17 does not prohibit the use of singular they as a substitute for the generic he in formal writing, but recommends avoiding it, offering various other ways to achieve bias-free language.”


Modern Language Association (MLA) Guidelines

“The MLA recognizes the pronouns that individuals use for themselves, and MLA style advises writers to always follow the personal pronouns of individuals about whom they write.”

Campus Resources