Just Use They
Just use the gender-neutral they/them/their when you're not sure.
When you don't know someone's pronouns (and you're not in a position to ask), instead of guessing (or, even worse, defaulting to he/him), use one of the English language's few good offerings — the gender-neutral singular they.
But I've always used he/him in these situations..
There's no time like the present to stop! 🙂
Regardless of why you've always done that (it can be fairly common in some cultures, and it's rarely malicious), using the gender-neutral they/them is respectful, easy, and could make someone's day.
What if they ask me not to?
Some people do not like these pronouns, and will ask you to stop referring to them using they/them — you should always respect their wishes, and instead use their preferred pronouns.
Should I still ask their preferred pronouns?
It's always polite and considered a best practice to ask someone's preferred pronouns — using they/them is only the "next best thing", and could still accidentally make someone feel bad if you rely on it for every interaction. For example, many transgender men and women find it annoying when others use they/them instead of their preferred pronouns.
Shamelessly ripped from the English Wikipedia, using they/them/their is very easy:
- "Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Could you please let them know where they can get it?"
- "My personal rule is to never trust anyone who says that they had a good time in high school."
The gender-neutral singular they is a safe, better-than-guessing pronoun to use in situations where you can't ask.
Don't assume pronouns, and definitely don't default to he/him.
This page wasn't written by experts, just folx like you — if we've made a mistake, or there's something you'd like to improve, please feel free to create a pull request. 💜