Respecting Pronouns and Identities
At AIM for the Rainbow, we support every autistic person of every LGBTQIA+ identity.
We support you whether you are professionally diagnosed or self-diagnosed.
We support you whatever pronouns you use and whatever labels you use to describe your sexuality or gender identity.
We support you if you are a family, friend, or carer looking to better support your autistic LGBTQIA+ loved ones.
All we expect in return is that you respect the labels, identities and pronouns of every other person around you.
Some people might not feel comfortable with just one label, and so might put a couple of labels together in order to find an identity that fits them better.
As people grow and get to know themselves better, the way that they identify (and the pronouns and labels they use) may start to change. This is very normal. If a person tells you their identity has changed, it’s incredibly important to believe them and respect their identity.
It doesn’t matter how many different identities or pronouns they have used in the past; respect how they identify now.
Always remember labels are deeply personal. We use them in order to express ourselves and find something that fits who we are, not to be ruled by them and their strict definitions. Different people may use different labels in different ways, depending on what fits them best.
If you don’t understand someone’s identity, and they are happy to chat with you about it, then that’s brilliant (as long as you’re kind). However, whether you understand it or not, and whether they are happy to chat with you about it or not, you still have to respect their identity: use the words that they ask you to use.
Respecting people’s pronouns is incredibly important to make sure everybody here is safe and supported. So here is a little bit of information on pronouns to help you get started.
A pronoun is the word that people use when they are talking about you, but don’t use your name. For example:
‘Erin’s at the door, she has brought her mum with her’.
‘Have you seen his new film?’
‘Someone left their hat in my house last night.’
Pronouns are traditionally understood to be masculine (he, him, his), feminine (she, her, hers) and plural, when talking about more than one person (they, them, theirs). So-called ‘plural’ pronouns are also traditionally used when the gender of the person you’re talking about is unknown (for example, as we don’t know who left the hat at my house, we use ‘their’ instead of ‘his’ or ‘her’).
Just because this is how they are traditionally used does not mean that everybody uses them this way. Anybody is allowed to use the pronouns they prefer, whatever their gender.
Although many women (cis and trans) use ‘she/her’ pronouns, and many men (cis and trans) prefer ‘he/him’ pronouns, and many non-binary people prefer ‘they/them’ pronouns, others feel more comfortable with pronouns that you wouldn’t necessarily automatically expect. This is why it’s important to:
- Ask people what their pronouns are before talking about or two them.
- Let people know what your pronouns are.
The moderators and writers at AIM for the Rainbow will have their own pronouns advertised on their work.
Some pronouns you might hear
Traditional gendered pronouns
- He/him/his/himself – traditionally ‘male’ pronouns
- She/her/hers/herself – traditionally ‘female’ pronouns
Traditional gender neutral pronouns
- They/them/their/themselves – traditionally plural (referring to more than one person) and gender neutral pronouns
- It/it/its/itself – traditional gender neutral pronoun commonly used for objects, animals and infants. While it is often seen as insulting to use these for another person, some trans and non-binary people like to use ‘it’ pronouns.
Neopronouns are gender neutral pronouns that are different from traditional pronouns (such as he, she, they and it).
- Xe/xir/xirs/xirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the 1990s
- Xe/xyr or xem/xyrs/xyrself or xemself – gender neutral neopronouns, first used as an option on an autism mailing list in the 1990s
- Ze/hir/hirs/hirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They have been used in several fantasy and science fiction stories
- Zie/zir or zim/zirs/zirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They have been used in several fantasy and science fiction stories
- E/em/eir/eirs/emself – gender neutral neopronoun, first recorded use in the 1990s.
Nounself pronouns are when people adapt a noun of their choosing into a pronoun to create a wide variety of very personal and descriptive pronouns. For example:
- Fae/faer/faers/faerself – fairy-themed gender-neutral nounself pronoun. First recorded use was online in the 2010s.
What to do if you get it wrong
If you accidentally get someone’s pronouns wrong, here’s the best thing to do:
- Say ‘I’m sorry’ (simply and quickly)
- Repeat what you said with the correct pronoun
- Move on with the conversation
You can find more information on pronouns here: Gendered Intelligence – Language and Pronouns