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Performative Pronouns

Updated: Apr 4

I have heard people talking in the past about not wanting to add their pronouns to things like email signatures as they feel it is performative.  The majority of these people are cis-gendered and feel a little uncomfortable with the whole conversation but, on the whole, do not want to exclude anyone.  This blog is not about people who do not want to add their pronouns as they deny trans people’s existence – they give themselves enough publicity, and they do not need me adding to the noise.


I’m talking about the people around the edges who do not want to be on the wrong side of history and are trying to navigate the right things to do in what feels like unfamiliar and uncertain territory.


I have always understood the reason to add your pronouns, even if they are the same you were assigned at birth, is to denote yourself as a safe space and someone that people can be themselves around.  It might be too strong to say it is allyship, but it flags to people that they do not need to hide who they are here.  And in a way, it shows who you are “I’m someone who cares about trying to make more people feel more welcome”.


Then, the other day, I noticed something interesting happen.  I had signed up for access to a load of free courses, and I skimmed past one and was undecided about whether it would be the right fit for me or not, and then I noticed the teacher had added their pronouns into their bio and this showed to me that they were someone who cared about other people.  It was someone who cared about social justice.  It was someone who aligned with the values of other people, being able to show up as themselves.


Of course, this is a mass sweeping generalisation, but in that instant, it was enough to make me sign up for their product.


It had never occurred to me that by stating pronouns, you would signal to other cisgender people that you were trying your best and that it is not only people who are misgendered who feel respected by it.  I felt like I would be entering into a space with a respectful person.


I do think the use of pronouns will evolve, and right now is early days, and it is clunky, but it is the best we have, and it is what marginalised people are asking for, so it is action I am willing to take.  I just never realised until now that it also benefits me.

Continued reading:

Why 'Womxn' Isn't Exactly the Inclusive Term You Think It Is:

Gender-neutral pronouns 101:

A sign saying "My pronouns are"


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