Non-binary gender refers to gender identities and expressions outside of the strictly ‘male’ or ‘female’ groups. These can range through identities such as ‘agender’, ‘bigender’ and ‘genderqueer’.

People who are not male or female will have different pronouns other than the widely used she/her/hers, he/him/his.

Non-binary or genderqueer pronouns

These are some of the most commonly used pronouns:

Pronouns In a sentence
she/her/hers She wants you to use her pronouns.
he/him/his He wants you to use his pronouns.
ze/hir Ze wants you to use hir pronouns.
they/them/theirs They want you to use their pronouns.
co/cos Co wants you to use cos pronouns.
No pronoun/name (use the person's name instead of a pronoun) (Name) wants you to use (name's) pronouns.
xe/xem/xyr Xe wants you to use xyr pronouns.
hy/hym/hys Hy wants you to use hys pronouns.

Note that this list is not exhaustive. Some people may use other pronouns.

Tips for using pronouns

We encourage staff and students to be proactive and learn how to be more inclusive of non-binary colleagues and students.

  • Normalise pronouns – include your pronouns in email signatures.
  • Ask everyone their pronouns, not just the person you think might be transgender or non-binary, so asking pronouns is as natural as asking what someone’s name is when you meet.
  • Step outside of your comfort zone. Forget what you think you know about grammar, and make an effort to respect gender diverse identities by using non-binary pronouns.
  • When you misgender someone say you are sorry, and fix your language moving forward. The best apology is not doing it again.
  • Non-binary greetings: Instead of saying 'ladies' or 'gentlemen' or 'guys' to a group of staff or students try to incorporate language that isn’t gendered like 'people', 'everybody' etc. into your vocabulary.
  • Correct – when you hear someone use the wrong pronouns for a mutual friend correct them. Part of being a good ally to non-binary, genderqueer, and trans people in your community is helping other people get pronouns right.
  • Please be mindful about outing people as trans with pronouns.  Do check with people privately about whether to correct pronouns when others mistake them.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. 'They' is a great pronoun, but it’s not for everyone. Some people may feel just as misgendered by people referring to them as 'they' as they would with 'he' or 'she'.

Why pronouns matter

For many transgender and gender diverse people, the lack of congruity between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth can create stress and anxiety, which can be magnified in the university setting. Providing an inclusive environment not only enhances academic success and job satisfaction for transgender and gender diverse people, but also ensures compliance with Deakin anti-discrimination policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression.

You can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity.

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (often all of them). It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.

We encourage and expect that you use a student/staff member’s chosen name and their pronouns. Not using a person’s correct name and pronouns can make them feel disrespected, can potentially out this person to their peers, and can create a classroom/workplace environment that could be very difficult for them to thrive in.

Check out this short video: Why pronouns matter

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