Macquarie University supports and celebrates all expressions of sex and gender diversity. Our community is committed to creating an inclusive culture, where LGBTQAI+ students and staff can feel safe and flourish. The use of pronouns has become a topic of increasing importance in recent years, especially when it comes to respecting gender identity and promoting inclusivity.

Addressing people by using correct pronouns is a simple way to show respect and support for individuals of all gender identities, including transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming individuals.

What are pronouns?

A pronoun is a word that refers to the people talking (eg. I or you) or someone or something that is being talked about (eg. she, them, or this). In English, we assign a gender to pronouns to describe the person we are speaking about. Some gendered pronouns examples are “She/Her” used as feminine pronouns; “He/Him” used as masculine pronouns and “They/Them/Ze/Hir” used as gender-neutral pronouns. Some people do not use any pronouns at all and prefer to be referred to by their name.

A person may change their pronouns for different reasons, including to affirm their gender identity so it is important that you listen to and reflect the pronouns that people use to refer to themselves.

Examples of Pronouns

Why are names and pronouns important?

Getting a person’s pronouns right is essential, as it shows that we acknowledge and respect a person’s gender identity. For some people, their gender identity does not align with the assigned sex at birth, and using the wrong pronouns can be hurtful and invalidating.

Misgendering, or using the wrong pronouns, can cause significant harm and distress to individuals. It can lead to the person feeling uncomfortable or uneasy about their body and/or gender identity. It can also lead to social exclusion, harassment, and discrimination, which can have lasting negative impacts on a person’s mental health and general well-being.

So, what is the right way to use pronouns and be more inclusive?

You can easily show your support to the LGBTQAI+ community that MQ is a safe place for them to be their authentic selves by doing the following:

  • Share your pronouns: share your pronouns in email signature, zoom or Teams meetings, during introductions and on social media.
  • Choose your words wisely: replace widely used gendered terms like “mailman” or “businessman” can be replaces by gender-neutral terms like “mailperson” or “business-person”. When addressing a group of people at an event choose to use gender-neutral terms such as “welcome everyone” instead of “welcome ladies and gentlemen” or using “good morning parents and carers” instead of “good morning mums and dads”, for example.
  • Hold yourself and those around you accountable: make a conscious effort to learn about gender identity and pronoun use. If you forgot someone’s pronouns, ask for their pronouns or use their name and gender neutral pronouns like they/them. If you witness someone using the wrong pronouns for someone, be an active bystander and let them know.
  • Be openminded and build your knowledge base: develop new perspectives and continuously educate yourself on gender diversity and pronouns. Become a champion ally to the LGBTQAI+ community.

What should I do if I make a mistake about someone’s name or pronouns?

If you accidentally use an incorrect name or pronoun, you should:

  1. Acknowledge your mistake without a fuss: Quietly or silently identify that you made a mistake before moving to step two.
  2. Apologise: share a brief apology, a quick ‘sorry’ before moving to step three – this will likely be sufficient depending on the situation.
  3. Correct yourself: use the correct pronouns or name.
  4. Move on: do not make a big deal of the mistake as this could make someone uncomfortable and makes the moment about your mistake, rather than about the impact it has had on the person.
  5. Learn from it: Make a mental note of your mistake, and the person’s correct name and pronouns, and try not to make a mistake again.

Getting pronouns right is an important step for promoting inclusivity, respect, and support for individuals of all gender identities. If you wanted to learn more about being an Ally and supporting students and staff by using inclusive language, please email

Download pronoun awareness posters

Click on one of the posters below to download a PDF of that poster.

Acknowledgements and resources:

Image credits:
Banner image: Source
Examples of pronouns infographic: Source
Pronouns for allies infographic: Source

Posted by Ammy Kwong

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