The University of Colorado at Boulder considers misgendering someone to be an act of violence, according to their research. The university’s Pride Office asserts that disregarding someone’s preferred pronouns constitutes a form of oppression and violence.
On their “Pronouns” page, created by students for students, it is stated that ignoring or disrespecting someone’s pronouns is not only oppressive but can also be seen as a violent act. When individuals request the use of their preferred pronouns, they are asking for respect towards their identity. The page emphasizes the importance of not assuming someone’s gender and highlights that being addressed with the correct pronouns from the beginning is a privilege not afforded to everyone.
To create an inclusive environment, the students advise explicitly stating your own preferred pronouns when introducing yourself, thus indicating that you are a safe space where pronouns are not assumed. If someone’s preferred pronouns are unknown, the students recommend using gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or “ze.” The page also provides information on contemporary pronouns like “ze” and “hir.”
The students argue that it may not always be appropriate to directly ask someone about their pronouns, as gender non-conforming individuals should have the autonomy to disclose their pronouns on their own terms. Even unintentional use of incorrect pronouns can lead to dysphoria, exclusion, and alienation, according to the page. The students stress the importance of correcting others who use improper pronouns.
The students conclude that being a true ally means not giving up on the individuals you aim to support. They also highlight that gender non-conforming individuals often tire of constantly correcting others, making the assistance of a friend invaluable.
In the event of accidentally using the wrong pronoun, the students advise apologizing without making it a big deal. As long as sincerity is conveyed and efforts are made to improve, the situation can be resolved.
While knowing someone’s pronouns is not the most crucial aspect, respecting the individual is of utmost importance, according to the students. It is crucial not to pressure someone into revealing their pronouns if they are not ready to do so.
The University of Colorado system consists of four campuses: Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and the medical campus in Aurora. CU Boulder is one of these schools, ranked as the 97th best national university by U.S. News and World Report, with approximately 31,000 undergraduate students.
In the past year, an increasing number of schools have implemented changes to ensure that students can officially enroll using their preferred pronouns. For instance, Harvard University offers the option of using invented pronouns like “ze” or combinations of pronouns like “he” and “they.” Many public K–12 schools also permit students to use their preferred pronouns, with some policies requiring teachers and administrators to keep students’ gender identities confidential from their parents.