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“What’s Your Preferred Gender Pronoun?”

Here’s something that happened to me last month: I got asked my preferred gender pronoun.

For those who aren’t familiar, this is a thing that tends to happen a lot at queer-positive conferences and gatherings these days. When you go around the room at the beginning of a session, you’ll say your name, something about yourself, maybe answer an ice-breaker question, and state your preferred gender pronoun.

It can be he/him, she/her, they/their, or one of the newer invented substitutes like ze or hir. Or, you can say you’d prefer to be referred to by your name.

I first encountered this tradition in 2011, I think. Maybe 2010. Most likely it was at a United States Student Association conference. The not-so-radical-anymore idea behind it is that respecting people’s gender identity is important, and volunteering your identity can be awkward, and misgendering someone is hurtful. So rather than guessing, or asking individual people to speak up if their preferences are non-standard or non-obvio

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