You might have noticed people are adding pronouns (like she/her, he/him, they/them) to their social profiles lately. Why is that?
It’s simple: some people have gender identities that don’t necessarily conform to the gender binary, which is restricted to male or female. After all, the concept of gender is part of a broad spectrum.
That’s why people in the LGBTQIA+ community that identify as non-binary typically go by gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, ze/zir/zirs) — because they don’t identify either as a man or a woman.
Within the LGBTQIA+ community, there are also transgender (trans) people — those whose gender identity doesn’t correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth. A trans woman, for instance, may want to be addressed as she/her.
In contrast, a cisgender (cis) person is someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned when they were born. A cis man may want to be addressed as he/him.
According to a comprehensive guide from North Dakota Health and Human Services, “Pronouns can be complex and fluid. Some people don’t use pronouns, some people use different pronouns in different settings, and sometimes we forget to ask for pronouns or aren’t comfortable doing so. It’s appropriate to use the name a person shares with you.”
What Are Pronouns, and Why Do People Use Them?
According to the National Education Association (NEA), “Pronouns affirm gender identities and create safe spaces by referring to people in the way that feels most accurate to them.”
Using someone’s preferred pronouns, as well as identifying your own, indicates that you’re respectful and inclusive towards LGBTQIA+ people.
“If I receive an email from a person that’s not part of the (LGBTQIA+) community, it allows me to know that person is at least an ally or someone that is safe,” Kiala Emmons, coordinator of the trans services programs at Metro Inclusive Health, told Tampa Bay News. “It’s a sign of respect when you use people’s preferred pronouns and says ‘I’m here and I see you and how you want to be seen.’”
So, should only LGBTQIA+ people share and use correct pronouns?
No! All people, regardless if they’re cis, trans, or non-binary, should use their pronouns to identify themselves. Especially when meeting someone new, online or in-person.
Here’s Why You Should Add Your Pronouns to Dating Apps (Yes, Even If You’re Cis)
All of us want to know that we’re safe when going on dates. After all, we’re subject to awkward and even creepy dates every now and again. We may wonder if our dates will enjoy our company, or whether they’ll find us attractive.
Non-cis people, however, often have to wonder whether they’ll be arriving home safely every single day. That’s because they worry about what we call “LGBTQIA+ panic,” or violence against transgender, gay, and non-binary people.
For this reason, putting your pronouns in your dating app bio (or any bio, for that matter) can make a world of difference. You’re essentially letting non-binary and trans people know you’re a safe person to connect with from the beginning.
Social and Dating Apps are Including Pronoun Features. But Is That Enough?
Social channels like Instagram include pronoun-identifying features. Similarly, dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Lex, OkCupid and Hinge offer options to add and customize pronouns. A brief visit to your “edit profile” tab is all it takes.
While that’s a solution, non-binary people still struggle with being intentionally misgendered on dating apps. Even despite having their pronouns front-and-center in their profiles.
Not to mention, several dating apps use an outdated preference-setting method. Users are allowed to specify if they’d like to see “men’s” profiles, “women’s” profiles, or “other’s” profiles. Needless to say, “other” is seen as derogatory terminology directed to non-binary people.
While most dating apps were initially developed to cater to a gender binary, the fact that so many of them now display pronoun and gender identification features is a breath of fresh air.
That still doesn’t change the dating issues non-binary and trans people face on a regular basis. It’s a lot easier for cis people to date within or outside the LGBTQIA+ community, as they aren’t the targets of constant misgendering.
It can be tricky to find accepting partners in traditional dating apps. That explains why so many cis and non-cis people alike would rather find love in dedicated matchmaking services.
There’s Still Work to Be Done in the Non-Binary and Trans Dating Departments
No matter if you’re trans or cis, you can and should date whoever you want, regardless of pronouns. Whenever you meet someone through a dating app, address them by the pronouns displayed on their profile, next to their username and bio. That’s all anyone has to do, really.
Despite such simplicity, both online and offline dating can be specifically challenging to people who go by gender-neutral pronouns. It’s not uncommon for cis and questioning people (the Q in LGBTQIA+) to treat queer people as an “experiment,” especially if that person is still discovering themselves and their sexual identity.
The term “experiment” was used by Alexa Hermosillo, non-binary, 25, in an interview for BBC’s Lovelife. Hermosillo goes by he/him/his pronouns, but still finds himself restrained into a gender binary.
“Dating as a non-binary person, you’re not only faced with societal, cultural norms from people who don’t know you, but you’re also put in opposition to people that you’re dating,” he says.
Don’t want to be one of those people? Here’s something you can do, starting right now.
Be Sure to Ask What Someone’s Pronouns Are When Meeting Them for the First Time!
Whether you’re meeting someone from a dating app or going on a blind date, get off on the right foot. Greet them, tell them what pronouns you go by, and ask them what their pronouns are.
It can be as simple as saying:
- “Hi, I’m Mia. My pronouns are “they/them.” How should I refer to you?”
- “Hi, I’m Elliot. I go by “he/him” pronouns. What are your pronouns?”
Getting used to asking someone’s pronouns will help you avoid gender assumptions and have meaningful interactions from the get-go.
If you accidentally misgender someone, don’t panic. Simply apologize and correct yourself.
It’s Time to Add Your Pronouns to Your Dating Apps and Social Profiles
Modern dating apps are doing what’s possible to become more gender-inclusive, with a few exceptions.
The question is: what else can be done to ensure that non-cisgender people remain safe and included in the dating world?
The only surefire solution is to promote gender pronoun awareness, including gender-neutral pronouns that aren’t very commonly known. Besides, of course, making an effort to educate yourself and the people around you on different gender identities.
You don’t have to be an expert, and you don’t have to get it right every time. You just have to be open-minded enough to learn and respect someone’s pronouns without making them explain what that means. Because, ideally, you’ll already know what that means.
If you still don’t have your pronouns on your social profiles, you should consider adding them. Why? Elite Daily put it beautifully:
“Adding your pronouns to your bio (which takes 30 seconds at most) can help steer society toward greater acceptance and inclusion. Plus, you’re letting trans or GNC (gender non-conforming) people know you’d be a wonderful match for them — one that respects all parts of their gender identity. What do you have to lose?”
This way, next time a non-binary person swipes right on you, they’ll be matching with someone they know won’t disrespect or misgender them. Instead, they’ll get to know someone who makes them feel seen, heard, and accepted.