ONONYE | The Problem With Pronoun Use in Professional Emails

I never met a person who didn’t refer to themselves with he/him or she/her pronouns until my first semester at Cornell. As someone passionate about gender justice and gender equity, I had previously understood the importance of questioning gender pronouns and identifying individuals in the ways that they wanted. However, my knowledge about pronoun use was very restricted to theory classes, news articles, lectures, TedTalks, Youtube videos and social justice conferences. Meeting students, faculty, and community members who identify with pronouns besides she/her and he/him has challenged me to “check” my own bias and to ask for pronouns (and present my own pronouns) during introductions. Two years later, I am in no way perfect.

HAGOPIAN | They are the World: What Pronouns Can Teach Us About Political Correctness

“I think she’s a computer science major.”

“You mean they’re a computer science major.”


The above conversation took place between my roommate and I a few weeks ago. To clarify, I used the pronoun she to refer to a mutual acquaintance of ours, and my roommate Troy corrected me, pointing out that the person I had mentioned uses they pronouns. One thing about Troy; he’s a very reasonable person. (Troy if you’re reading this, don’t get a big head. Also please take out our garbage.) After I said “whatever,” he proceeded to admonish me in a very fair and thoughtful way, which was more than I deserved considering how dismissive I was of him.