how do I change to “they” pronouns at work?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m considering starting to use “they” pronouns for myself at work. I’m sort of flailing on how to request that people switch pronouns (particularly when it doesn’t fit the standard he or she pronouns), as well as wondering in my mind how much it would hurt my career/etc.

I’m not really sure what I’m asking for. Guidelines or things to consider? Stories of how it’s gone for other people? If you have thoughts or would be willing to crowdsource the question to your readers, I would really appreciate it!

Let’s hear advice in the comments section from people with direct experience with this — people who have changed their pronouns at work, are considering it, or have observed how a workplace handled this well or not well. I’m asking everyone else to stay in listening mode on this one.

{ 362 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder of the rules:

    1. Let’s hear advice from people with direct experience with this — people who have changed their pronouns at work, are considering it, or have observed how a workplace handled this well or not well.

    2. Please note which of these applies to you when responding.

    3. If that’s not you, please stay in listening mode on this one. I will be removing comments that don’t follow these rules.

  2. kel*

    Hey! I am a person who uses they pronouns. I started by adding them to my signature (if this is a new thing you could also add a little link to an info sheet for pronouns also).

    Be prepared to do some educating. See if you can get management or an ally on your side, someone to make the correction when people get it wrong (otherwise you’ll start to feel downtrodden). If you have a union board or a board for employee postings, put up some info about it. It’s unfortunate you have to start the information campaign, but I’m here for you!!!! You can do it!

    Here are some infographics.

    See also if you can start a culture of introducing yourself and coworkers with pronouns at meetings and in one on ones.

    Good luck!!

    1. An Odd Spot*

      I’m curious, since you bring up normalizing announcing pronouns, if you’d have thoughts on this: in a situation where introducing with pronouns is a norm, how does someone who basically reacts to a given set of pronouns from decades of doing so, but hardly identifies with said pronouns (so, in agender-spectrum or demigender this can be a thing) navigate the weirdness of now having to actively *claim* pronouns instead of just passively accepting other people’s assumptions?

      To be clear, I do not mean to suggest a problem with proactively announcing pronouns. The benefits are clear, this helps tons of people, normalizing this seems like an overall net positive. I’m just hoping there’s a graceful way that meets the needs of normalizing explicit declaration of pronouns, helps avoid any more direct a claim on a gender than actually fits me, and it feels like when I encounter that awkward mismatch a lot of folks (reasonably) interpret it as an objection to sharing pronouns rather than trouble with claiming a given set, so I’d like to avoid leaving that impression.

      I’m not seeking to alter my pronouns, the ones most folks assume for me fit well enough to work for day-to-day interaction (and I’ve lived decades of learning to react to those pronouns already). I’m just wondering if anyone has thoughts on how to effectively navigate this kind of difficulty with explicitly claiming a set of pronouns?

      1. Snarl Trolley*

        I’m genderfluid and nonbinary, and while I mostly tend to use they/them pronouns, I do go through periods where no pronouns really feel…right, or where all are fair game. When it’s the latter, I say that – “any pronouns are fine” (“he/him or they/them”, etc, as applicable) and when it’s the former, I tend to say something like, “I’m not particularly tied to one set of pronouns at the moment.” and let others take that how they will.

        Ultimately….pronouns can be incredibly important, and having them respected is an implicit acknowledgement of someone’s humanity! But they’re also (in my experience) finnicky and vague and can never fully encapsulate something as intangible and hard to quantify as gender! So I’d say give yourself some slack on the idea that you need to “claim” one set of pronouns that will now be Yours forever and ever – go with what feels right. If that’s feeling more along “they” lines but not minding “she” – nbd. Use “she or they” if that’s easiest on you. Pronouns should ease your gender stress, not make it worse. <3

        1. Cygnata*

          I’m genderfluid, and have pretty much learned to default to “I don’t care which you use, as long as you’re not being a jerk.” My gender is fluid enough that folks would have to constantly ask, anyway! (And it doesn’t help that even at my most male, my body is VERY cis-female presenting.)

      2. SG*

        I wonder if you’d find some peace with saying “I use any pronouns”, knowing that most people will default to whatever binary ones they feel you “fit”.

        Stated-pronouns-as-cultural-norm is broadly positive but can certainly be frustrating for people who are gender-meh or figuring things out. Before I transitioned, I *hated* having to give my pronouns because they felt so wrong, but I couldn’t identify why and spent a lot of time feeling like a bad ally for trying to avoid it. When I was first starting to explore my gender, I swapped to saying “I use she/he/they”, then “he/they”, then “they”. Figuring out what felt less bad to introduce myself with was a big part of gender exploration for me, and eventually a negative experience turned into a positive one.

      3. DarnTheMan*

        I don’t know if it would help with your specific situation but I’ve been in a number of situations where we were asked to provide our preferred pronouns and some people jut listed all of them to indicate they really didn’t care what people referred to them as. Or as a friend of mine likes to do (because although assigned female at birth, they’re much happier presenting as androgynous or agender) “Well I sometimes go by she/her but you can just call me Max” and kind of makes it lighthearted to indicate they won’t be offended if someone does use another pronoun because they’re not that attached to she/her.

      4. Guest*

        I really like using (for me) she/they as my pronoun introduction here. It seems to capture the ambivalence I feel while also showing support for the practice and allyship.

      5. JSPA*

        I identify with this quandary. I’m…OK…with my AAB gender being assigned to me, yet I find it unexpectedly icky and constraning, to have to select it myself. And yet, I’m fine with selecting a gender on a medical form, or selecting a title. I figure it’s along the same lines as, I’m 100% comfortable naked, but feel beyond ridiculous in makeup or ruffles. I intellectually know that selecting “she/hers/her” doesn’t commit me to expressions of femininity! And yet.

        So I’d prefer not to be forced to state. Even though that superficially lumps me in with people who refuse to state because they think gender is a) binary and b) obvious.

        One way I’ve dealt with that is, “she/hers/her or they/them or whatever.” Granted, that can mean many things. It allows for, say, having a philosophical preference for “they/them” as a societal default if not otherwise instructed, but also a continuing individual default of “she/hers/her” based on history and lived experience. Or for genderfluidity. But if my preference really is, “no strong preference,” and you insist that I state my preference, I’ll state my preference. Which is, in fact, “no strong one.”

      6. Metadata minion*

        Yeah, I’m a big fan of making this sort of declaration normalized but not mandatory. There was definitely a stretch where for me, “I don’t know” was the most honest answer to that question, and there is no non-awkward way to say that at work. And even “use any pronoun” is still pretty strongly implying that you’re not totally cisgender. I didn’t mind when people assumed binary pronouns, but it was really uncomfortable being essentially asked to either come out before I was ready or lie.

        To your specific situation, would something a bit less definite like “she/her is fine” be a happy medium? A phrasing like that would tell me that you’re not really wedded to those pronouns but for whatever reason prefer to go by those than anything else.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          This is where I am, too. I like the wording you suggest.
          I have such ambivalent feelings on how to normalize preferred pronouns One the one hand, it was my knee- jerk reaction to being expected to identify my preferred pronouns that helped me realize I’m agender. So… yay? And obviously I want to call people by their correct pronouns! On the other, while I’ll use “she/he/ they” or “no preference” in safe spaces, I am by no means generally out (like a lot of us). And it feels increasingly icky to be asked for pronouns in places, like work, that are trying to be inclusive but where I suddenly have to make the choice to come out in a space I don’t trust or misgender myself.
          At the same time other people benefit from normalizing asking for pronouns, and in my position I try to lead by example. There’s no really good answer here beyond “change the work culture so that it is ACTUALLY safe to be out,” which is way, way easier said than done.

          1. MT*

            Extreme same to this – in the program I work for, there’s been a big push towards having participants in our trainings announce their pronouns in our first big meeting together. Which, like…if you know the program and you know the people, you know that you’ll be safe doing so! but for our brand-new participants, that’s a big honking leap of faith. And for someone like me, whose gender identity is a resounding “???”, it can feel like a LOT of pressure.

            At the same time, some of my coworkers (mostly binary trans people, but a few nonbinary pals) feel incredibly validated by this practice, so I don’t know. I’ve defaulted to saying, “you can use ‘she’ and ‘her’ for me” – it’s true, but doesn’t require me to claim those pronouns as my own.

        2. Monokeros de Astris*

          Big +1 to this comment. I had this problem while I was coming out to myself and not yet ready to come out to anyone at work (I’m a binary trans woman). Saying anything but my assigned pronouns felt like coming out, and saying my assigned pronouns felt like I was actively misgendering myself. The phrase I used was literally exactly “he/him is fine”. It hurt but it was the least bad option I could come up with. But being able to skip answering and let people assume my pronouns would have hurt less, during that time period, even though they would have assumed wrong.

      7. SometimesALurker*

        It’s a good question, and a good reason for sharing pronouns to be normalized but not mandatory. I have seen people say, “most people use she/her for me” as a way to avoid actually claiming a set, but whether or not that feels like the right amount of distance from claiming a set would certainly vary from person to person.

      8. Margaret P.*

        Last year we added a new person to the team at the public library where I work. Here is the email introducing them. I deleted actual names. Since they joined the team quite a few people have added the pronouns they use to their email signature.

        I am thrilled to announce that Name will join our team as
        an Adult Services Librarian on Monday, July 15.

        Name recently graduated with a Masters in Library and Information
        Science from School and has worked as a Library Associate at
        Public Library and Public Library. Their favorite genre
        to read, watch, and listen to is sci-fi/fantasy, they love sushi, and
        they are transmasculine. They use they/them pronouns. We are excited to
        have them join the team!

        Please join me in welcoming Name!

        Another team member sent this email out –

        Hi everyone,

        As you may have noticed from Christina’s email, I do use they/them pronouns. I’ve spoken to multiple teens that have expressed appreciation for my using these pronouns openly, and I would really appreciate it if in emails and conversations I am referred to with they/them pronouns. I will also wear my pronoun pin more often!

        Thanks so much,

      9. Mae Fuller*

        When I am asking people to introduce themselves (eg at the beginning of training) I phrase it as “what pronouns you’d like us to use for you today”, which I’ve been told feels less high stakes than “what are your pronouns?” for people who are in your situation or (for example) exploring their gender identity and not yet ready to make a public announcement.
        As a kind of parallel, I hear lots of people say things like “you can refer to me as she/her or they/them”, which might work for you? I think offering options is reassuring and communicates that you’re recognising the value of the question more than “I don’t care what you call me”, and also focuses on how you want those people to describe you rather than on your fundamental identity so it might feel more congruent to you?

      10. anon anon (do doo do do do)*

        Thank you for asking that question. It’s something that I have also been wondering about and struggling with. Having someone else thoughtfully and articulately express my conundrum unexpectedly made me burst into tears, so… That was interesting?

    2. Baker's dozen*

      I’ve been using they/them pronouns at work for about 10 years now. Here’s some stuff that’s helped:

      Management getting everyone to put their pronouns in their email signatures (and now zoom handles) so that it’s not just me).

      Management working with me to write a briefing for my immediate team on circumstances where I wanted them to use they/them pronouns and gender neutral phrasing for me (all of the time), when I wanted them to correct people who misgendered me (any colleagues or visiting professionals), when I wanted to decide for myself whether to tell people (clients/helpline callers) and what explanation I was comfortable with if people asked (“Baker’s dozen is non-binary, that means they’re not male or female”).

      Getting some people on board to do they explaining for me and persuading people to practice using my new pronouns.

      Getting really comfortable correcting people briefly and immediately.

      Explicitly telling people that profuse apologies, preemptive apologies, and self flagellation are counterproductive.

    3. Saradactyl*

      I’m a they/them person, seeing myself as agender. Unfortunately, my body is one of a fat female, and a lot of said fat has gone to my chest and bum, giving me an exaggeratedly-female-looking body. I’m not fully out to everyone, and I haven’t really tried to go fully they/them at work. So far, I’ve introduced myself as they/them to only about 4 people out of my 30-odd person staff as the industry I work in is notoriously conformist and is peripheral to the military in one part of our company (makes RADAR systems for navigation – ships and aircraft). I’ve been coming out very slowly, but that’s how it feels right for me.
      So far, the few coworkers who know have been all kinds of totally awesome, even though I have had to do a little bit of explaining and educating. I don’t mind, as the questions have so far been respectful, welcomed, not prying, and never impolite.
      So far, when I’ve mentioned it, I’ve waited until the topic has come up in conversation naturally… someone talking about Pride or mentioning a television character who is gender-nonconforming. I say something like ‘Oh, I’m agender too! I like that show because of that character!’ and just proceed onward as if I didn’t just drop a bombshell on them. It doesn’t give them a chance to direct any negativity my way! So far, this has worked!

      Best of luck and I hope things go great for you, LW!

  3. space cadet*

    Honestly, my first step was to put my pronouns in my email signature. (I use she or they.) A few people have asked about it, but it seems like that sort of soft heads up does gradually get noticed… It would probably be different for someone going straight to a fully new pronoun, but if you’re just starting to think about it, that could be a low-key way to start.

    1. Delta Delta*

      It’s pretty common in email signatures – I think that also seems like a good place to start.

    2. AVP*

      I’ve worked with an organization who does a lot of advocacy around this, and as a result most people had their pronouns in email signatures and online/Slack profiles. We also made a point to intro people with their pronouns at events and speaking engagements, if that’s relevant – obviously in advocacy, we were trying to make a point, but I also found it genuinely useful to have pronouns laid out as naturally as you would mention a past job title or university degree.

    3. Captain Raymond Holt*

      This thread couldn’t have come at a more timely time – my company got acquired and in the process I’m switching over to my (new, gender neutral) name.

      I also use she or they (username nonwithstanding). Do you find that most people just default to “she” because it’s more comfortable for them?

      I’m curious to learn anything you have to share about using both she/they in the workplace!

      1. another Hero*

        I use any pronouns and have a button that says so (my job faces the public), but I’ve never heard anyone use anything but “she” for me. I think if you don’t require people to uncouple your pronouns from their assumptions/what they’re used to, most people won’t. (In my case, I really don’t mind, but if I did, I think I’d have to switch to they/them or ze/hir or something exclusively.(Which of course is what op is doing, so I’m sorry if this is problematically off-topic instead of appropriately off-topic lol)

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            Not in my experience. My chosen social name* is a standard western male name and my pronouns match, but I don’t set out to pass physically. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. My very close friends adjusted and use the correct pronouns consistently, but people I see less often are prone to messing up occasionally, and passing aquaintances very rarely guess right, if I just introduce myself and don’t tell them my pronouns as well.

            * I still use my wallet name and pronouns at work and in medical/distant family settings.

        1. Mama llama*

          So – displaying my ignorance here – “Mama llama (she/they)” would just mean that I am OK with either she or they?

          It seems so analogous to saying “she/her” that I figured that people with that designation preferred neutral pronouns in some parts of a sentence and feminine in others and Google is not at all helpful in this. (Ie, “She sat down at their desk” or something)

          1. Dahlia*

            It means a person is comfortable with either she or they pronouns. No, you don’t have to switch in the middle of a sentence.

          2. SometimesALurker*

            Yes, it means either she or they, so “she sat down at her desk” or “they sat down at their desk.” And, you’re right that it’s confusing with the overlap between saying “she/her” (which, honestly, I think is most helpful when you either list all three (helpful with neopronouns) or when speaking aloud, when saying more of them helps if someone didn’t hear the first consonant). As far as I know, this overlap has not been solved!

            1. Watry*

              I am super not out at work, but I am non-binary and okay with most pronouns. In meatspace I usually say “she or they series”, but I can imagine that not being super helpful unless the person is already aware of these things.

              1. Mad Harry Crewe*

                Hello fellow nb who is not out at work! It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

                1. SometimesALurker*

                  Solidarity! I’m both a woman and genderqueer and my pronouns are she/her, and since people tend to read me as a cis woman and call me she by default, I’m definitely experiencing this on easy mode, but yeah, not out at work and almost definitely not going to come out at this workplace.

          3. Echo (they/she)*

            Yes, it means I’m okay with either. It’s just shorter than writing out “they/them or she/her”. I do see why it can be confusing.

        2. Captain Raymond Holt*

          That’s really helpful, thank you! You helped me understand the assumptions that people may have about me upon meeting. I do pass for cis and the most famous person with my name is a female (thought it is unisex).

          I think I will keep my pronouns on any “official” communication to she/they or they if I need to pick one. For right now, I’m truly okay with either. I want to feel out the new company first before I think about moving to “they” full time.

      2. space cadet*

        Most people do default to she for me too, which I don’t really mind personally– for me the pronoun thing is less about announcing a gender identity and more about identifying myself as a part of the queer community and, ideally, heading off pronoun assumptions from strangers. But since folks at work know me already, I guess my goal with sharing a neutral pronoun is to nudge their awareness rather than request a change personally. Does that make sense?

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          This is why I use she/her, actually. I’m low on the gender intensity scale – which is convenient, as I can pass for male, and I’m aware that a strongly gendered person would struggle with that. I’ll answer to whatever pronouns you’ve got, and I have no dysphoria at all. That said, identifying as queer feels like stolen valor to me. (I don’t otherwise qualify.) So I’m “cis by default”, and that’s fine.

      3. RoseDark*

        99% of people will default to she because it’s easier for them. Especially if you are female-presenting. In order to get people to make an effort I found it helps to stress that you *prefer* “they” but don’t mind “she”. People will still say “she” a lot of the time, but they’ll make more of an effort to use “they”.

    4. blackcat*

      This is exactly how I’ve seen people (3 so far) do it initially. Then what has emerged is that other folks will correct others in person/verbally.
      Say Person A has switched pronouns, has put them in an email signature.
      Person B and C has a conversation.
      B: “I need to get the llama shaving files. Do you know where A keeps them? Are they on her Box?”
      C: “Oh, yeah, the files in the ‘llama folder.’ And A is now using they pronouns.”

      The bonus of this approach is that the folks who are aware of this do a lot of the communicating to those who aren’t.

      1. Sam.*

        I’ve seen it play out this way, too. I also had a coworker who just sent a brief FYI email to our department saying they were now going by they/them pronouns, similar to the messages others had sent when they changed a name due to marriage or decided they wanted to go by their legal name instead of a nickname – something brief and upbeat but very matter-of-fact.

        I do work in a field where pronouns are standard in email signatures and there are professional expectations about using them properly, so they could reasonably assume that others in the office would help reinforce the message and correct mistakes (and that is what happened). In a different environment, I think it would be a good idea to specifically ask a few trusted individuals to help with that so you know going in that you have some back up. Good luck, OP – I hope it goes smoothly!

      2. ProdMgr*

        It brings me joy when people do this for me. It feels like my teammates are looking out for me.

        1. blackcat*

          When I was in grad school (only woman in my cohort), it always brought me joy when a male colleague called out microaggressions directed at me. I didn’t always have the energy to do much beyond roll my eyes, and it was really, really nice to have someone else say “Bro, did you seriously just do X? Don’t be such a sexist ass.” (These were actual words. Ah, grad school.)

          I try to be more professional in my allyship in the workplace, but that experience taught me a lot about supporting other folks. Correcting pronoun usage is much easier as the cis person in the room than it is for the non-binary or trans person.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Yeah, one of the great things that I noticed happening in some of the spaces I hang out in is that normalizing everyone reminding each other about pronouns (rather than just the person whose pronouns weren’t used correctly being in charge of correcting people) is that it seemed to bleed over into everyone reminding each other about some of the other little ongoing things in need of correction.

            I’ll remind someone that Person A uses they/them pronouns, and then a few minutes later I’ll hear Person A reminding someone else how to pronounce my name correctly. Since I’ve lived with my commonly-mispronounced name my whole life but only have to deal with people using the wrong pronouns from Person A very occasionally (since I’m not them and not around them all the time), I’m much less worn out with correcting people about Person A’s pronouns than I am with the decades of explaining how a certain vowel combination in my name works, and I suspect Person A, who has the kind of name you can get on pre-printed souvenirs, similarly is less tired of explaining foreign vowel combinations than they are they/them pronouns, so we each get a little bit of a break from our regular scripts this way. (Also, we can each be a little pushier about correcting people since we’re helping out another person rather than just asserting ourselves.)

      3. BethRA*

        We encourage people to do as well – help correct pronouns so the folks being mispronouned don’t need to do all the work. We also usually suggest that if you use the wrong pronoun, that you repeat the sentence using the correct pronouns to get in the habit.

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In my very limited experience, the person with new pronouns is frequently absent when they are used, so it does fall to allies and friends to model and reinforce correct usage. It’s a very small emotional burden to take on, comparatively.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I always appreciate if someone corrects me because in a number of cases it can just be from not knowing what the person’s pronouns are.

          I recently did an interview with a candidate not knowing that they used they/them pronouns. The person was great and I moved them forward to a second interview and in emailing the interviewer for the second stage misgendered the person in an email. My coworker replied to my email and said, “Oh, by the way, so-and-so uses they/them pronouns”. It wasn’t something I had discussed with the candidate, so I didn’t know from my conversation with them, but it was good for me to hear what their preferences were, so that I could refer to them correctly going forward.

      5. Jellissimo*

        I work in a gender studies department so I have a lot of experience with this. Basic, non accusatory correction is great, but please don’t say someone is “now” using they pronouns. Just that they are using they/them.

        Also, get HR on board. The normalization of this is important. At every meeting whenever introductions take place, this should become part of the standard. “Hi, I’m Jan Schmoe, I’m in Teapot Development, my pronouns are ze/zir/zim.” This is a great opportunity to improve diversity awareness and your employer should take this opportunity to get on board, without spotlighting that any individual employee prompted this shift.

        And there are conflicting opinions on the use of lapel pins that indicate pronouns in use. I guess the use of those depends on your comfort level with that “branding.” Generally speaking, the transition to pronoun awareness has gone pretty well for most people in our team once they are confident they have the support of people around them.

      6. Sue*

        Yes! It is a kindness if you are aware of someone changing pronouns, and your colleague uses the wrong one, to give them a heads up! I have a large circle of personal and professional contacts that I may only see a couple of times a year, and several times, I’ve been talking about someone and a colleague has said “Hey did you know that X goes by Y now” and I have been so grateful for the heads up. Often these contacts announced this in a Facebook post or not at all, and I just missed it because I hadn’t been in contact with the person in a while. A heads up from someone helped me so much as I would have hated to unknowingly misgender someone.

    5. CJ*

      I agree. My first step was adding them to my display name in Slack, which our company uses widely. As a low key approach it worked well. I was approached by one colleague with a thoughtful question about alternatives to “you guys”, which was affirming.

    6. Cold brew fiend*

      I’m a manager, and I *hope* that I handled this well —one of my employees did this (added they/them to their email sig but didn’t remove the original). That gave me the opening to say “I noticed you added they/them. Would you rather we use they/them than she/her?” When they answered yes and shared some other personal details, we had a conversation about whether they’d like some sort of formal announcement. In the end, I shared the new pronouns with managers and the rest of the department when they were not there, per their preference. It took awhile to trickle through the full organization (there were some people who had a harder time remembering than others) but I think it was a pretty smooth process as these things go.

  4. WonderMint*

    Whatever approach you take, I would ask a trusted coworker to stand in solidarity with you by doing the same. For example, if you change your Slack name to “Tracy (them/them)” you could ask other coworkers to do the same “Monica (she/her)”

    1. The Vulture*

      Ha, I would respect (them/them), though, really make their heads explode of those “it’s about the grammmarrrrr” types. Them is so awesome them are never singular.

      1. WonderMint*

        Oh, for sure. My main takeaway was to ask a close coworker(s) to do it with you, whether it’s Slack, email, nametag, whatever.

      2. Metadata minion*

        That’s a really useful feature, but how often do you look at someone’s Slack profile? If you want to be emphatic about reminding people, I think the user name really is the best option.

        1. Captain Raymond Holt*

          In a larger organization I do look at profiles a lot to get a face to a name or understand what the person’s role/title/department is.

          It would take a culture change to get folks to look at the Slack profile for sure, but as an information organization nerd I prefer to see things consistently formatted and in the same location every time. I also want to share this feature with other readers so they know it’s an option at their organization and it doesn’t need to be ad hoc.

          Honestly, I wish Slack would have a native “set my pronoun” feature so it could refer to a user by their pronoun in other areas of the software.

      3. kt*

        I noticed the pronoun note on a colleague’s Slack profile, but no one else did as far as I can tell.

        Our mutual boss has been very consistent in using correct pronouns for colleague, I’ve been pretty good, a few other people are good, and some people really cannot grasp what is going on apparently (not in a thoughtfully malicious way, just appearing very oblivious).

    2. CranberrySeltz*

      Yep, that’s what we did at my job! When a non-binary colleague came out to a few close teammates, we all added pronouns to our slack names. Then we asked HR to add a custom pronoun slack field to profiles, which they eventually accommodated (honestly tho I think just putting pronouns in the slack name is more visible, as everyone will see that no matter what)

  5. Hills to Die on*

    A lot of people at my organization have the tag line “pronouns: she / her / hers” or whatever fits. Cis people do it as well. It seems to go well. I have been here 9 months and have never heard it mentioned. This is a very accepting environment though.

  6. kel*

    Non-binary people aren’t the only ones who might use they pronouns! Cis people might as well!

  7. WindmillArms*

    I changed from “she” to “he” pronouns at work, and it went better than I thought it would. Having a name change along with it might have helped; you don’t mention one, but if it’s something you are also considering, I think it helps to bundle those two changes together in people’s minds.
    One thing that really worked for my transition was having a sort of designated point person for questions. I had an outgoing ally friend at work who offered to be named in my coming out email as someone who was willing to field questions. A few people asked me things directly (and offered kind words too!) but a few others went to the ally friend to get the “Trans 101” talk when they were worried about messing up directly to me.
    Something else that I think worked in my favour was being very boring about it. My coming out email wasn’t a long personal essay; it said “OldName is now known as NewName and uses he/him pronouns” and gave my new email address. People who wanted to be nosey had to do the work themselves, and most people just aren’t willing to grill someone to their face!

    1. AEB*

      This aligns really well with what I’ve seen. Although my coworker didn’t designate a person willing to field questions and that is a BRILLIANT.

      But yes:

      1. Start by talking to trusted coworkers
      2. Talk to your boss (if you have a good one) and make a game plan for your email
      3. Email the company / team / pertinent coworkers
      4. Add it to your signature

      Do all or none of these things. You have to figure out what’s right for you, but this is *typically* how I’ve seen/heard it go.

      1. Nic*

        I had a boss many years ago transition from he/him to she/her, and this was basically how she did it.

        There was a department-wide email letting everyone know that this employee would be known by NAME going forward, and using she/her pronouns.

        While it took a while for everyone to become smooth with it, from the outside it seemed like this worked really well for her.

    2. anon here*

      I think having an outgoing ally friend is great. I asked my colleague directly about the pronoun shift and also asked whether I should correct people; their response was to the effect of, “If you want to I’d be happy! I am not willing to put a lot of emotional energy into it at work.” So I’ve mentioned it to a few people when it comes up. I felt more comfortable doing so after asking for colleague’s lead, as I did not want to overstep by being more emphatic or less direct than warranted.

  8. Littorally*

    Something that was helpful for me and for a couple other trans folks I know was to start with an ally – a close work friend, or in my case, my boss. Talk to them about your pronouns, and once they’re comfortable using the new ones smoothly, ask them to help remind others or have that conversation if you happen to not be present. It really takes a load off your shoulders when there’s someone else who can hop in like “Hey, you mean their deliverables, right?” during a meeting.

  9. anon for this*

    Thank you OP for asking this, and Alison for posting! I’ve been wondering the same thing (and debating back and forth whether it’s even wise to change pronouns) so I’ll closely be following along with the answers.

    I’m also curious if there’s anyone who has changed pronouns, and had it not be respected / had professional repercussions down the line – are you still glad you made the request? I think the fear of the rejection and distant repercussions makes what should seem like a straightforward process (“actually, I use ‘they’ pronouns now!”) feel like really fraught territory (“is it worth it?”)

    1. kel*

      I definitely waited till I was in a comfortable work environment where I knew there weren’t going to be repressions, and I had allies who were able to support me. I’ve very visible queer at work, in a position that allows me to do a lot of work with making my workplace diverse and welcoming, so I’ve been very lucky.

      1. anon for this*

        This definitely makes sense! My current environment is liberal (academia) but has a lot of strange behind the scenes politics and conservatism, so it’s a little more tricky to navigate. I’m glad that diverse workplaces such as yours exist, it gives me hope for the future.

    2. OP*

      OP here – I’m definitely curious about professional repercussions down the line as well. Partially because my desire is to de-emphasize gender in a male-heavy field, but I worry that it will backfire and re-emphasize it instead.

      1. anon for this*

        I relate to this a lot. I’m not in a male-heavy field, but I understand the desire to de-emphasize gender, especially as a nonbinary person. Solidarity fist bumps, OP. Thanks again for asking this question.

      2. Tinker*

        I would be a bit surprised if it had the effect of de-emphasizing gender, unfortunately, unless the office culture is somehow also extremely immersed in Gender Things — which is not the sense I get from what you’re asking.

        During the time when I was using they/them pronouns across all environments, I had the notion that the people around me would have a learning curve but I severely underestimated how steep it would be — I had a number of folks who I do believe had the desire to do the thing, who did not like that they were incorrect as often as they were, and who also were incorrect a whole hecking lot. It seemed to particularly be a thing for people who encountered me regularly but not routinely; enough contact for the subject to come up, not enough contact for them to cement the learning given that they were starting from scratch.

        I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s pretty likely that a significant component of “who is that person” during that time was “the person that I apologize to because I messed up their pronouns again”.

        1. Tinker*

          That said, judging from the arc I have seen in my personal life and considering the rapid change I’ve seen in the broader culture, I think the way to get to “this actually deemphasizes gender” is to go through the period of chaos and sometimes-uncomfortable awareness — that’s an inevitable part of the change/learning process.

          But if you’re asking about the immediate effects for you personally, I’d guess probably it’s going to be more like you becoming (even if with positive tones) the One Who Does Gender.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, this is a fair point. I want society to progress this way and it’ll involve a chaotic period. Do I want to be an early adapter? I’m not sure.

          2. Another Non-Binary Employee*

            I am non-binary and I updated my pronouns to “they/them“ over a year ago. Previously, I had used “she” and “they” for two years, and had told people that informally and put “she” and “they” in my email signature.
            I came out at work as using “they/them” in waves, first to close coworkers informally, then changing my email signature. Then sending an email to a small group of coworkers. Then sending an all-staff email.
            I included a ton of resources in my emails—general links about trans and non-binary people, specific links about pronouns, and specific links about how to use they as a singular pronoun. Ask A Manager has advice about “how to support a coworker who uses they/them” which I shared and folks found very helpful. I still fielded many questions about gender, pronouns, and LGBTQ issues generally. That might have been the main repercussion.
            Some coworkers have been extraordinarily consistent in using “they” to refer to me. Others—including my managers—were supportive in theory but in practice struggled for almost a year. Going to my boss’s boss and being clear that I want my managers and coworkers to help correct each other helped. It’s important to note that I didn’t run into anyone who was outwardly opposed to trans or non-binary identities or to my pronouns. But I have many people at work who continue to use my old pronouns, even a year later.
            I am still glad I came out at work!

          3. tired anon*

            I agree with all of this, but want to add, I don’t think a workplace has to be extremely immersed for gender to come up in completely unnecessary ways. I’m non-binary and fine with she/they, but the one thing I really, really REALLY wish I could get people to change is greeting a whole group that includes me with “hey, ladies!”

            Most of the folks I work closely with are cis women and people say that ALL THE TIME when they approach us (or slack/email us, etc). “Hi, everyone!” or just “Hi!” would work without bringing gender into it, but it’s totally normal and very very common for a gendered term like “ladies” to be used.

            I would desperately *love* for everyone to hit that chaotic period of awareness of how often gender creeps into language even beyond pronouns.

        2. anon here*

          Your observation of who messes up most matches very well the people I see mess up most with my colleague — regular but not routine contact.

      3. ThisMakesMeUncomfortable*

        Are you non-binary yourself? Apologies if I’m misreading this, but if you are a cis person looking to change your pronouns for some other reason, that changes the question a bit.

        1. anon for this*

          Oh, yes sorry I was not clear in my original post – I am nonbinary myself, and already go partially by they/them pronouns in my personal life.

        2. OP*

          I consider myself agender. Sometimes that gets rolled up into nonbinary, sometimes it doesn’t.

          1. ThisMakesMeUncomfortable*

            Thanks for clarifying, and I’m sorry if that was intrusive. When I saw your earlier comment that you wanted to de-emplahsize gender, I feared you were a well-meaning but clueless cis person trying to make some kind of statement.

            1. Mad Harry Crewe*

              I think anybody has the right to use whatever pronouns they want, for whatever reason. Some people feel their gender very strongly, whether it matches how they were assigned growing up or not, and whether it’s a standard binary gender or not. Some people simply don’t feel gender very strongly at all, or in a transient way. Any of those people could look cis to an outside perspective, whether it’s because they haven’t made a decision about physical transition yet or whether it’s because they know they don’t want to do so.

              Nobody who lives outside that person’s head *ever* gets to make a call about that person’s gender, gender expression, pronouns, or identity. I don’t care how cis someone looks. You don’t get to tell them they can’t use their preferred pronouns, and you don’t get to determine which pronouns are acceptable.

              Even if that is the only queer/nonbinary/whatever expression that person chooses to take, it is their choice, and someone who otherwise appears cis but uses “they” pronouns IS queer or nonbinary, if that’s an identity that makes sense to them.

              And, even if you truly don’t care about honoring cis peoples’ pronouns, remember: you never know where someone is going, and every queer person I know started with some kind of baby steps. Someone who starts out saying “yeah, I’m definitely (assigned gender) but I’d prefer neutral pronouns, please” is not necessarily going to stop there. If your stance is that only people who are willing to take a huge leap, or commit to a huge change are valid – you are shutting people out of a community that should be welcoming them. Please don’t.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to verify to make sure I got the question right — you are looking to switch to non-binary pronouns for yourself, not for everyone, right?

        1. OP*

          Yeah, the focus of the question is whether/how I should switch for myself.

          (I think there’s just some bleedover into a general societal question of what society looks like when we don’t assume pronouns from looking at someone, so some of the tangents are going that way.)

          1. MayLou*

            Thank you for this reminder. I’m cis and have been dithering about including my pronouns in places like email and social media because on some level I seem to feel like it’s obvious what pronouns I use from my appearance and name, but you’ve very succinctly expressed why the fact that people always assume correctly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be part of the change I want to see in the world.

      5. Renee*

        I manage a small female majority engineering company of 5 in a very male heavy field. When our office manager transitioned to using They/Them I let them guide me as to how they wanted to handle the change which was a reasonably straightforward adaptation within our team of 5. Since our office manager communicates with clients only via email and phone they chose not to change anything else at the time. Our team member has since transitioned to using She/Her along with a name change. Again, I worked from her preferences on how we handled it. We used the name change as an opportunity to introduce her as a new team member to our clients so she wouldn’t feel any need to get into personal details with potentially unsupportive clients.
        She recently approached me about adding pronouns to her emails (not at all common in our field currently) and we had a discussion about whether the other members of our company (who meet directly with clients) should also do so. I am a woman working in a male dominated profession and have avoided adding pronouns to my email signature specifically because I do not want to draw attention to my gender until clients have gotten to know me. For everyone else at the company, I’ve left it open to personal choice. So far none of the other female engineers have added pronouns to their signatures either.

        1. JSPA*

          Yes. Some fields (and regions of the world) may be 20, 30 or 40 years (± a decade for individual attitudes), past when that was an issue, and people having to use their initials to get published, get grants, etc is a weird story from the old days.

          But other fields (and areas) at at 2 years (±3), or at -5 years, -10 years, or too depressing to even guesstimate.

          You can encourage people to “be the change you want to see,” but reducing people’s strategies by fiat isn’t supportive of anything progressive.

          1. blackcat*

            I’ve known women in *all sorts* of fields who have gender-neutral names who get totally different responses from people over email once the person realizes their female.

      6. Curmudgeon in California*

        I hear you on that. Even in academia, there is a LOT of gendered expectations thrown around.

        While I may be AFAB, I’m non-binary, agender. I want out of the toxic gender expectations, where physical appearance dictates expected behaviors. I want people to treat me as a person, not a “woman” or a “man”.

        At this point in my life (I just turned 59) I have given up any lofty career goals, because my gender presentation does not fit (has never really fit) my assigned gender, and it has cost me a lot already in terms of advancement. This is even before I started shifting pronouns. But I’m not going to perform femininity just to get a promotion. The thought makes me slightly nauseous.

      7. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        The Corporate Equality Index (published annually) rates larger companies on their LGBTQ inclusiveness, and has metrics specifically for trans inclusiveness. On the chance that your work environment becomes hostile (I certainly hope it doesn’t!) it wouldn’t hurt to know what companies in your area are likely to be better. Also they may have info on your company to help you right now!

        1. Blue Anne*

          This is a good place to start, but it’s also worth noting that a lot of cities and companies that are rated by those types of programs find out what they need to implement to get the highest ratings and then do that, without necessarily having any real cultural change. I live in a city that always gets 100% from the HRC, and I’ve been yelled at on the street, received bad medical treatment due to queerness, etc.

          I’m looking at the CEI ratings now and see that a company I worked at a few years ago has received 100%, which doesn’t surprise me, although I have never worked ANYWHERE that made me feel less safe or less respected for my queerness and gender. Technically I had all the legal protections and benefits I could possibly want, realistically I would’ve been making myself very unpopular and shooting myself in the foot career-wise if I used any of them. Now I work at a tiny company with no specific policies on this and feel totally comfortable and amazing.

          Bottom line… I’d check out glassdoor, local queer facebook groups, talk to employees. Ask around at the LGBT chamber of commerce if your city has one.

    3. Tor*

      ha, I’ve been debating submitting some version of this question myself, so I was delighted when I saw someone else had done the work for me

  10. Ange*

    I’m a non-binary person who uses “they/them” pronouns. When I came out at work I spoke to my manager and we had a chat with HR about how other people had announced transition/new pronouns at work.

    In the end what we did was my manager had a quick chat with everyone in our department to let them know about my new pronouns and transition and she sent an email round with an announcement I drafted and some FAQs about my pronouns/transition.

    It’s gone okay, I think. I’ve definitely noticed at least one of my colleagues using the right pronouns – obviously mostly when they use my pronouns I’m not around, so I can’t say that everyone’s using them, but it’s definitely better than before. I also added them to my signature, which I hope might help.

      1. Ange*

        About 18 months or so. I will say that I might not have come out at work at that point except that in order to qualify for medical transition I needed to be out at work.

  11. Hiring Mgr*

    At my last company, one of our colleagues changed from “she/her” to “they/them” and did so by just telling everyone one day and that was it – and also changing the email signature, slack id, etc.. FWIW, it was a very small team that knew each other well, and we are in an area that’s very accepting of these things overall, so it wasn’t an issue.

    1. Kay*

      My best friend transitioned to non-binary about 6 months ago, and reading through this post and its comments were HUGELY helpful for me in adjusting my reflexive use of pronouns to a more conscious practice across the board, not just with them.

      1. Kay*

        So sorry – this was meant to be a reply to the comment above, the link to the previous Ask A Manager post.

  12. Tinker*

    I had top surgery and grew a beard, and some of the people around me didn’t pick up that there might be a pronoun-related thing going on. Which was embarrassing to them and I wish I’d just gone ahead and made an announcement at some point. At another point, I was regularly attending hobby events wearing a binder and a shirt that said “Nobody Knows I’m Trans” and the shirt seemed to remain completely true.

    There are still a lot of people out there who may have heard of transgender people and would want to do right by them if they encountered one, but have essentially no radar for indirect signs that they are in fact doing so.

    Directness is kindness.

    1. WindmillArms*

      This is so true! I’m trans, so I think I have more of a “trans-dar” than the average person, but I’m astonished at what people seem to not notice. Being clear about what you need from people is important, as they will not figure it out on their own!

      1. Anonymous Guy*

        Hey there, I’m fairly sure you don’t mean to imply this, but “trans-dar” is kind of a transphobic concept, in my opinion/life experience. I am a longtime medically transitioned guy, and the idea that one can “tell” who is trans does not line up with many people’s experiences.

        1. WindmillArms*

          Fair point, I was meaning it more in a situation like Tinker described, where other people don’t seem to notice that someone they know as “she” has had top surgery, started growing a beard and now goes by “Richard.” I’m amazed that even major changes don’t blip to a lot of people, where they are an obvious cue to me to pay attention to pronouns.
          Not trying to imply that I can tell trans people all the time! Just that I sometimes notice changes and cues that are invisible to the cis world.

          1. Anonymous Guy*

            I figured that’s what you had intended! And yes, I do think non-trans people can easily not notice changes that those who are trans are often more attuned to.

            I mostly commented because it felt important to note, since the idea one can “tell” can be pervasive, and is damaging and misguided.

            (Can be used as an argument to not update policies because people don’t perceive trans individuals as actual employees/clients, waiting for the onus to be put upon some trans employee/client who is open about their trans status.)

    2. ThatGirl*

      TBH I, would feel really awkward about switching pronouns for someone unless they had told me directly – even with top surgery and a beard. And I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable asking unless we knew each other well. Would I suspect you were trans? Of course. I might even be 99.9% sure. But I’d still want to hear straight from you. So I agree that directness is kindness.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        ha – that’s a really good point – a woman could legitimately have PCOS or something that causes a beard. Or someone might start taking hormones but not want a pronoun change. I would also be wary of changing how I refer to the person unless I had a clear sign I was supposed to!

      2. L*

        I don’t think it’s rude to ask once about pronouns as long as you ask once, make an effort to remember, definitely don’t tell the trans person “oh but its so haaard to switch”, ask about their genitals, etc. I hear that it can be nerve-racking to ask but I (as a trans person) appreciate a cis person taking on a tiny bit of potential awkwardness by asking, instead of me having to take on potentially giant risks (being fired, physical attack, subtle undermining, constant micro-aggressions, etc) by bringing up the subject myself if the person I’m telling turns out to be anti-trans.

        1. L*

          And because now I see that comments about PCOS were mentioned while I was typing my comment, I still think that one “hey, would you like me to keep using “she/her/hers” for you?” in private is an okay thing to ask. Asking the person is key, that way you’re not making assumptions, but you’re also taking on the risk (of feeling uncomfortable) vs making them take on the risk of many things that are worse than feeling uncomfortable for a minute.

          1. W*

            This is a personal preference thing. I hear that you’d prefer to be asked, but as a fellow trans person in a climate where coming out does have some reprocussions I’d want to actually think through, I’d prefer to tell people in my own time and not have that on-the-spot moment of ‘crap, do I tell them? Do I not tell them?’. After all, the person asking may be anti trans, and the risk is still there–I just have to figure out in the moment what to choose. Not to say that either approach is wrong, just there are different opinions on this and it isn’t one-size-fits-all.

          2. Jessica*

            As someone who has PCOS, I would take this question so hard. It is already devastating to grow facial hair when it is something you don’t want. I literally have to shave my face every morning and really want to hang onto the illusion that other people can’t tell.

            1. Hazel*

              I was wondering about this. My former partner had PCOS, and I know she would not have wanted to be reminded that someone noticed her dark, shaved-every-day facial hair.

          3. JSPA*

            PCOS is common. So are other treatments with hormonal side effects. Safer to say, “I get a sense you’re going through some changes. I consider you a friend as well as a coworker. If I can be helpful in some way, let me know.”

            If it’s chemo or side effects of diuretics or something other than gender change, and you’re helpful by bringing over a casserole or covering for a doctor’s appointment, rather than by spreading pronouns, that’s fine! You’ve been a good ally to someone needing an ally, and you have avoided mis-gendering by implication or body shaming someone who has way too much else going on to need that, too.

          4. Cis lady*

            Hey! I think the accepted way to do this is “hey – what pronouns do you go by?” rather than “would you like me to stop using ‘she/her/hers'”?

            Your framing (inadevertently!) has an undertone of “hm… I suspect these pronouns aren’t correct”. Leaving the question open-ended can be a lot more comfortable.

            1. TL -*

              I have an acquaintance who has started forcefully asking people what their pronouns are upon meeting them and it’s…. unpleasant? It feels very put on the spot and you have no trust or background with her.
              For context I’m cis but I don’t care about what pronouns people call me – I really just don’t. So asking me randomly like that, I want to blurt out, “I don’t care,” but then I think about the whole “is she going to think I’m insensitive? Is this going to turn into A Thing? Am I going to get lectured about trans/nb issues?”

              I can’t imagine what that is like for someone who is not ready to come out yet or struggling with their identity. I’m not sure I agree with asking people what their pronouns are, unless you’re in a monitored, facilitated space where jerks will be asked to leave.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily rude to ask once! I just would *personally* feel awkward about it. I even have a trans friend who I was pretty sure was Working on Gender Stuff and I could see some changes in hair and dress, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I still waited for the announcement to confirm it.

          1. Quill*

            Also you never know if there are only some arenas where you should use the person’s new pronouns… example, people who are not out at work, to their parents, etc.

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, like… my queer radar has pinged for many people but ultimately I recognize that expressing “I knew you were one of us” can be disappointing or concerning for trans people.

      4. another Hero*

        Yeah, I (agender) have quite a trans social circle and would probably assume you were trans – I would likely start talking around pronouns – but I’d feel very presumptuous just *assuming* a pronoun change as a function of changes to other elements of gender presentation. (For one thing, of course, pronouns don’t have to be coupled to other elements of gender presentation.)

    3. TiffIf*

      When I was in high school (late 90s/early 2000s) there was a classmate who I honestly did not know what gender pronouns to use–presentation had markers of both male and female and name could also be either male or female. I didn’t know how to refer to my classmate–so I usually sidestepped by naming directly. At that time I didn’t know that they/them was an option or that you could ask what pronoun someone preferred! Half way through the year a teacher used female pronouns so I figured I finally had an answer–it never crossed my mind that the teacher might be misgendering my classmate. The next year the word spread around school that my classmate now used male pronouns. I was not close to him (we were only ever in one class together and he was two grades below me) but as far as I know people didn’t give him any problems and he got the male lead in the school drama production that year.

      Directness is definitely a kindness.

  13. Susan*

    It probably depends on your industry for a lot of reasons, but I had a client change pronouns and it was not a big deal. They told the person they work most closely with, and that person gently spread the news and corrected politely.

    If it’s at all normal in your office, you could add it to your email signature too. In my office it goes in parenthesis after your name. Perhaps, like my client in a way, loop in one or two trusted coworkers who can help spread the news subtly, as they can then gently correct others if they use your previous pronouns. They presented it as a very matter-of-fact change, and so everyone rolled with it in the same manner.

    I’d go with the standard polite correction yourself if someone refers to you incorrectly. “Oh, I actually use they/them, thanks!” in a cheerful/friendly manner will likely correct the issue, unless you have super rude or obstinate coworkers.

    If you have HR, they might also be able to provide guidance, too.

    1. Emdash Enthusiast*

      Providing guidance to allies on preferred corrections would also be really useful. I’ve been in the correcter role (like you say, very matter-of-factly, “oh, they go by ‘they'”) and was surprised by follow-up questions I’d sometimes get (“when did that change? are they trans? are they getting surgery? did they legally change their name? how does their partner feel?”). The answers to these questions aren’t mine to tell.

  14. Web Crawler*

    Here’s a quick link about they/them pronouns for the curious or uninformed:

    In my experience asking people to change pronouns for me, it usually takes two conversations (or one conversation with two parts).

    1. Can you please use “they/them” for me? You know how you use “they” for one person when you don’t know their gender- like “Somebody left their phone, I hope they come back for it”

    2. I will correct you- it’s okay, it doesn’t reflect badly on you, and I’m not mad. I know it’s hard to change the pronouns you use for me, and I’m correcting you so that you learn- it’s an investment in our relationship.

    But full disclosure, I never did this at work. At work, I talked to a few managers that felt safe, saying that I noticed people were confused about what pronouns to use for me (I was getting she and he about equally), and if they heard this, could you please let people know the correct pronouns?

    1. Granger*

      “I will correct you- it’s okay, it doesn’t reflect badly on you, and I’m not mad. I know it’s hard to change the pronouns you use for me, and I’m correcting you so that you learn- it’s an investment in our relationship.”

      WOW. What a beautifully direct, yet kind approach! I also love that it assumes the best intentions and good will of the the person being corrected (even if that isn’t totally the case – it reminds me of Alison’s response to a post this week that provided a response where it gave the bad actor a standard to live up to rather than a tear down critique).

  15. A penguin!*

    We had one coworker change pronouns, as well as name, at my company. I don’t know what the conversation between them and their manager was like, but the result was a brief email from their manager saying ‘Bob’s name is now Joe, and their pronouns are now they/them’. Everyone just started using the new name/pronouns. We weren’t perfect immediately, but people mostly caught themselves if they stumbled.

    Probably would have worked just as well coming from the coworker directly, but given our specific example also included a name change there were other logistics that the employee couldn’t do themself.

  16. Bulu Babi*

    I saw it done nicely. A former colleague (in academia) had a conversation with their supervisor, coming out as non-binary and discussing how they’d like to announce it to the group. The supervisor then emailed everyone saying “X has informed me that there non-binary and use they/them pronouns, in which I strongly support them.” He may have added something like a link or statement to the university’s LGBTQ+ support policies (I don’t remember well, as this was a few years ago). He wrote the email in that positive vibe of “of course we’re all going to be decent and respectful of this” that AA often recommends. I’m not sure if he directed people’s questions to himself or to other resources, but that would have been a good call. Anyway, it was smooth — though some people seemed to never get the pronouns right, most were discreet and just swapped to the new pronouns without much comment. The subject came up in a few lunchtime discussions (without my colleague present) but it was always from a helpful perspective of “how can we get this right?”

  17. Whitney*

    I did this at my work over a year ago and it’s gone very well. Caveat that I work at a very touchy feely nonprofit that puts a lot of focus on employee wellbeing, so everyone was really ready to support me. I initially just told my team via a slack message, but then when I wanted to communicate to the whole organization, I sent an email to HR to talk about the best way to get the message out. They ended up sending an email on my behalf, but featuring text that I had written. Here’s what I wrote, to give you some ideas:

    “In my time at [organization], I have felt nothing but warmth, caring, and compassion from my fellow employees. That is why it’s important to me that everyone know that I am transgender non-binary, and I use they/them pronouns. I ask that when referring to me, instead of ‘she’ or ‘her,’ you please use ‘they’ or ‘them.’ I want to thank everyone for making [organization] such a safe and welcoming environment that I feel comfortable being my true self at work. If anyone has any questions, feel free to speak to me privately.

    If anyone feels iffy on the singular they from a grammatical standpoint, please know that use of it goes back to the 14th century and, oh yes, I can provide citations! Singular “they” works just like the usual plural they! So, for example: “[name] works for [organization]. They are very happy to be part of the team. Feel free to ask for pictures of their cat at any time.”

    Think of it like the way you often unconsciously refer to a generic or unknown person. Such as, “Somebody left their umbrella in the office. They can claim it at the front desk.” Everyone uses it all the time and most people don’t even realize it!”

    I’ve been pretty proud because me coming out and being forward with this has lead to a standardization of people at my org putting pronouns in their email sigs and also in Slack (especially now that we’re all remote due to covid), and guidelines for inclusion being shared with the organization. And now I’m not even the only they/them person working there!

    Best of luck!

  18. Anon for this*

    I am also considering changing to they/them pronouns. I am moving across the country for a new job next month, so it’s kind of a natural point, but I have lived and worked in that area before, so there will be people who know and remember me as she/her. I’ll run into more people who previously knew me in my personal life than my professional life. I think the workplace will be accepting. I’ll also be following along, but would love any additional thoughts about changing with a new job.

  19. Just Me*

    As others have suggested, what we are seeing is people adding this to their e-mail signatures. For many of use 40+ people, part of our mental block is that it was drilled into our head that they is always plural and when writing if you didn’t know the person’s gender you’d put he/she.

    This is a great time to bring up to HR that they may want to consider changing any policies that have he/she in it to they instead. I work at a place with a lot of diversity in the LGBTQ space. So it has been interesting “training” new staff that we don’t use he/she in policies because those are binary terms and in order to respect all people, we use the gender neutral or gender inclusive (whichever way you prefer to view it) they instead.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Rewriting HR policies to use ‘they’ throughout would be a worthy goal. I suspect some companies would be surprised to see the gender assumptions that persist. I’ll stop here, as this is a tangent. Maybe we can pick it back up on the Friday open forum.

  20. Erin*

    Great advice here! Having a supportive boss is KEY. I came out as nonbinary a year and a half ago and it went fine. My boss has been really great about it. Folks are generally very supportive even though only about half of my colleagues get the pronouns right. I posted a dear colleagues letter on our intranet which seemed helpful for folks, so reposted here in case it’s helpful for you. Godspeed!!

  21. Anonys*

    I think juliebulie slightly misinterpreted OP’s question to mean that OP wanted people in the workplace to generally refer to other people as “they/them”, similar to how we sometimes do here in the comments when OP’s gender/pronouns are unclear. So it wouldn’t be referring to oneself in the third person, but “just start using” it for coworkers. Hence the suggestion of a formal initiative/ policy. What OP actually wants, is for themselves to be referred to as “they”, so this doesn’t really address that.

    Tbh, besides the fact that this wasn’t OP’s question, I think “they” is great for people who want to use those pronouns or to refer to people when gender/pronouns aren’t known, but I dont think it’s a good idea to just generally start referring to other people as “they” when you actually know someone uses “he/she” pronouns. That could invalidate a lot of (trans) people who might have struggled to be perceived as their actual gender.

    Anyway, good luck with this OP! I hope your workplace is tolerant and open minded and that people will use your pronouns without making a big deal out of it.

    1. OP*

      I’m in somewhat a different place with this. I would love for default genderless pronouns for individuals, unless specifically requested otherwise. (That said, it would need to apply to *everyone*, not just trans or GNC individuals.)

      I’m referred to as “she” by default (I’m female and very GNC). I’m slightly negative of indifferent to it, but it feels like too much effort to change. But as putting pronouns in email signatures becomes more common, I feel… weird, not doing so myself. But I can’t honestly put “she” there, and especially don’t want to in a male-dominated tech industry. So I’ve been debating putting “they” there – but as mentioned in another comment, I worry that this will somewhat backfire in drawing more attention to gender rather than less, and I’m worried about professional backlash down the road.

      I don’t feel like I have a great option here, but I love hearing everyone’s thoughts!

      1. Anon for this (the one who mentioned moving above)*

        I hear you on putting pronouns in signatures. I don’t feel like I’m being honest if I put in she/her, but worry about the ramifications of putting they/them. It’s both a helpful and an unhelpful new convention. I’d rather be misgendered by assumption (someone guesses pronoun based on my presentation and female name) than by my own statement.

        1. GS*

          Pronouns becoming common in email signatures is what’s driving me to think about changing my own at work. It would be a nightmare – traditional male-dominated field, very by-the-book office that doesn’t even have a gender-neutral bathroom and has a ton of people that rarely interact with each other and have a bunch of gendered events (“ladies night” “guys’ fishing derby”). But it’s actively really uncomfortable for me to misgender myself in my email signature every time I send something. I honestly wish this email convention would disappear for a few years in my office.

          1. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

            I’m with you on this one! The biggest reason I started using my own preferred pronouns was that it was getting to the point where my conspicuous lack of pronouns was starting to raise awkward questions when coupled with my lack of enthusiasm/participation for the “Women! In! Tech!” events and the fact that I wore a suit to the company holiday party…. As much as I appreciate normalizing having pronoun signatures, it put me in a real weird spot when my woke-ish manager told me she was an ally, and was happy to connect me with LGBT resources when I was ready to transition. (I’m afab agender, not a trans man in denial)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Thing is, if your gender presentation isn’t traditionally female, you are taking a career hit anyway, so you might as well align your pronouns to your presentation, IMO.

              I’m with you on the “Women! In! Tech!” thing, and my workplace has started to include “and allies” to cover the intersectional issues.

              1. blackcat*

                Groups I’m affiliated have started to move towards “Women and Gender Minorities in ____” I’m not totally a fan of “gender minorities,” but I do appreciate the effort to make it clear that extra supports are there for a broader group.

                1. englyn*

                  Where the heck are the “Gender Diversity in Tech” things? I’m recently a bit cross with the various “Women in Tech” things too, for this and a couple of related reasons.

      2. another Hero*

        I use any pronouns, and while I have a button announcing it (my job faces the public) because I don’t want people to be concerned or anxious in choosing, I’ve left it out of my email signature even though it’s quite common in my organization. That’s basically because I don’t feel the need to discuss it with, much less be a teachable moment for, community partners and people I don’t see regularly. It’s totally possible that there are people who look at my signature and think “Hero should be a better ally to trans people,” but there’s a reason trans people are often opposed to requiring pronoun disclosure. So if you choose to do nothing, I think that’s completely valid! But an obvious caveat is that I don’t mind whatever people choose to use. I also don’t think pronouns in an email signature are really drawing a lot of attention either way – some people will notice, for sure, but it’s not exactly coming into work in a hat with two pride flags sticking off it like antennae, y’know? (10/10 support anyone who wears such a hat, of course.)

      3. LQ*

        I’m with on you pronouns in signatures. I know that people are going to assume she/her and I’m fine with that. I’m not comfortable with DECLARING it. I’m not comfortable with DECLARING they/their. I do feel like there is space to not include pronouns without coming off as someone who is transphobic or someone who will disrespect someone’s pronouns. I am kind of on the side that forcing people to put their pronouns in their signature can cause a lot of …not okness for some people who don’t want to lie and aren’t ready to come out because some HR department made up a rule about it.

        I try to be really openly supportive and proactive, but I’m also not going to put pronouns in my signature. I haven’t had anyone directly challenge me on it yet and I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do when that happens. I suppose I’ll give them the neutral version (without including myself in it) of the rant above. But I’m going to resist it pretty hard personally, while still strongly supporting others in whatever decision they make. (And generally going neutral unless otherwise indicated Though I generally go name heavy rather than they/their heavy on the neutrality.)

      4. Anon scientist*

        I am the same as you in many ways (female and GNC in tech, although I describe myself as gender-queer when asked) and have similar reservations about putting my preferred pronouns in an email signature. I work with a lot of people, and don’t have the emotional energy to explain anything to everyone. Maybe they would all understand, but I don’t want to worry about it so I don’t have anything added to my signature.

        My one little thing that I cling to is that I have my performance evaluations written as they/them, because I hope that eventually one day all of them will be genderless and maybe even anonymous, so that my work will be fairly compared to others’ (I am referring to the endless number of studies which show that the equivalent work of women and POC in STEM does not compare favourably to that of men and ‘western’ names). I don’t think the use of They hurts my evaluations, although I’m happy where I am and have no ambitions to be promoted so I’m not a very useful data point.

        When I go to conferences or am mentioned in any official documents then I ask them to remove any title (Ms, Miss, Mrs) and to refer to me as they. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least it is something and I hope that we will improve in future.

    2. juliebulie*

      Wow, yes, even my clarification has been deleted! This comment probably will too. Thank you for restating it.

  22. Laura Geenen*

    I have not made this change, but I have been seeing more people adding their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. Example of one I saw just yesterday
    Fergus Smith (They/their/them)
    Company X

    It always strikes me as a low key way to communicate and remind people of preference. Not all offices use signatures for internal or reply emails as part of their culture. My own company has mixed usage, but if your company has stricter guidelines on signatures, check with your manager if the additions are allowed. You should also have a conversation with your manager about the change, simple and direct. It’s better to have their support (or know if you won’t) first.

  23. CatCat*

    At my workplace, they encourage people to specify preferred pronouns in their email signature. We have a standard signature format. For those who want to specify preferred pronouns, the first line of the signature looks like this:

    Name (pronouns: specific pronouns), Title

    So it would look something like:
    Sansa Stark (pronouns: she/her), Queen in the North

  24. Beboots*

    I supervise a new staff member who requested we use “they” pronouns at work. Our workplace, though a government agency (not American), has been implementing various initiatives to better serve and support LGBTQA+ employees. At the same time they started, we (across the national agency) were updating our email signatures to include our preferred pronouns, and as they were a new person, it was fairly straightforward to introduce them with their name and preferred pronouns. That being said, it was easier from the get-go than someone established in a job because it was fairly easy to bring it up in an introduction context. They still get misgendered a bit by other folks on site who don’t interact with them much, but mostly other members of our team work to refer to them as “they” in the conversation afterwards in a non-confrontational way. Like, other staff member might say something like “I saw her presentation the other day, and it was really good! Can you tell her I said so?” and one of us will respond with something like “For sure, we’ll let them know next time we see them!” It’s a pretty natural way of speaking. I think that having both support from their immediate colleagues as well as an agency-wide initiative have been very helpful.

    1. Beboots*

      I should also say that we’ve also as a team been trying to reduce the amount of gendered language we use (in both languages that we speak at our work site). E.g., using “folks” or “everyone” instead of “guys”. We often do presentations for kids, and one of my staff uses “guys, gals, and non-binary pals” or “guys, gals, and pals.” Everyone on the team is on board and it’s become not just about one staff member working hard to have their preferred pronouns recognized, but something that we as a team are all consciously working on and helping each other out with. That means that when we do stumble a bit the corrections are gentle and there’s a clear understanding that we’re all trying to do better.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          My non-binary friend found one similar to “guys, gals and pals” that we all love; instead of ‘sister from another mister’ or ‘brother from another mother’ we use ‘my sib from another crib’

          1. Pathfinder Ryder*

            I’m from Aotearoa New Zealand, in a workplace that strongly encourages the use of te reo Māori, and I’ve heard “whanaunga from another maunga” – relative from another mountain, in line with the Māori worldview of mountains being ancestors :D

  25. WhatDayIsIt*

    If you work in a university setting, most will be chill about this. About half of my office uses pronouns in their email signatures (which I highly recommend for everyone) and I’m pushing us to introduce with pronouns when leading events so that it isn’t JUST our they/them folks who feel pressured to share out pronouns. There is a bit of controversy on this if you are making everyone share pronouns with strangers, but when leading groups I find it useful as long as all the leaders agree to it.

    We’ve had students transition before and it’s best when a coworker misgenders someone to politely repeat what they said with the proper pronoun or just make sure you use the proper pronoun. Calling people out makes it awkward for all, so don’t be rude folks! (Obviously, if it is YOUR pronouns being ignored, call out all you want!) Also, cis folks please avoid use of “preferred” pronouns – it’s just their pronouns, not their preference.

    1. another Hero*

      I’m definitely opposed to requiring pronoun disclosure because it can require some trans people to either misgender or put themselves in situations where they would prefer to do neither and thereby be less welcoming, but creating the opportunity to do so and an environment where choosing that option is normalized is helpful for sure

      1. another Hero*

        Oops, “put” should have been “out,” not sure whether that was autocorrect or user error

      2. kt*

        another Hero, I agree with you — creating an environment in which is normalized is great, and requiring it is not great :)

  26. Mid*

    I’m struggling with this too.

    No one uses pronouns in signatures. While my office is LGBT+ friendly, non-binary is still seen as kind of out-there. I’ve heard comments from one coworker that showed that she did not “believe” in enby identities, and no one pushed back, so I’m kind of scared of being judged. This is coupled with the fact that I’m by far the youngest in the office, and very new.

    So for now, I just ignore the she pronouns used and talk about myself with gender neutral language and hope that it slowly picks up. It seems passive, but there really isn’t a precedent for how to handle these announcements in my small office. I also socialize with my coworkers (or did pre-Covid) and was planning on directly telling them. I still do…eventually.

    The hard part is the longer I’m in the office using she/her pronouns, the stranger it will be to switch.

    None of this is very helpful, sorry LW. But I understand where you’re coming from and wish you the best of luck.

    1. Theo*

      I do just want to point out that if your office thinks being nonbinary is “out there” or they don’t “believe” in it, then your office is not LGBTQ+ friendly.

      1. Mid*

        I agree.

        I mean, in the office of 12 (now 11) people, one person is a lesbian with a wife and another is gay with a husband, and no one really says anything about it or cares at all. Comments have been made that shows they’re supportive of trans people as well. I know at least two coworkers have either trans friends or have helped house a kid who was kicked out by their parents for being trans.

        But, (not disparaging older folks) they’re on the older side (I believe the average age is over 60) and so they don’t seem as up to date on things like gender identity. It’s come up a few times and people seem uninformed at best, or dismissive at worst. And since I’m already the new kid, I’m not really willing to stir the pot yet. There’s probably a 50% chance it would go totally fine, and a 50% chance that it would be either ignored or people would roll their eyes at the weird millennial and think less of me. So I’m just going to play the long game, get closer to my coworkers personally, and do it that way.

        1. pancakes*

          Argh, being a new person in that scenario sounds extra frustrating! Getting to know people personally seems like the best approach with people who are downright dismissive. They’re being rude but hopefully not long-term impossible.

        2. Anon scientist*

          It’s not just age. We had an LGBTQ+ presentation last year from someone in our workplace who is young and lesbian and a LGBTQ+ Ambassador, and some of her comments were pretty clearly dismissive of anyone who wasn’t female or male.

          My workplace has some great people, yet in that meeting we also had a very ignorant old man who asked What terms do you use when a child has two male parents? as if that was a legitimate question. It was no surprise to me that I listened to the answer from the official folks and then gave him a polite yet completely unambiguous piece of my mind (“Father”, because anyone who adopts a child is equally a parent and doesn’t need to be referred to any differently).

          1. pancakes*

            That wasn’t the official answer?!

            If someone asked that in a friendly tone, though, I wouldn’t necessarily presume they intend to be bigoted, or to imply that the parents aren’t parents. The more time I spend online, the more it seems there are so many people who live lonely and/or insular lives and don’t have anyone in their day-to-day lives they can ask even basic questions about phrasing, or, worse yet, are surrounded by people who are contemptuous of LGBTQ+ issues. That said, there are horrible ways to phrase that same question, depending on the way it’s expressed.

            That’s awful about the ambassador. I think that’s worth an email to the organizer(s).

        3. GS*

          Nothing useful to add except that I’m in a very similar situation: my small town has lots of out gay/lesbian (monogamous, cis) couples, when I use the term “partner” my supervisor has made an effort to switch to the term “partner” instead of “husband” for herself, but “hey, we need to figure out a non-gender-bathroom” and “there’s a new set of pronouns” and “what do we do with GS during ladies night” feels like a very different proposition. Folks are kindly disposed, but I’m not sure they’re open-minded: they may have just accepted a different location for their line in the sand.

      2. pancakes*

        In a sense I agree, but offices can be complicated places this way. Even when leadership is genuinely LGBTQ+ friendly, there might be someone on staff who is uninformed, averse, or anything in between. Or not even staff — someone like a mail carrier or bookkeeper or whatnot who visits regularly can be an unfriendly presence. Leadership may or may not work out of the office regularly.

        A few years ago I worked at a small law firm with mostly women partners who were great, but I had two sort-of-square coworkers I found myself informing that not every trans person is gay. (Fwiw, I’m a cis bi woman who somehow looks pretty bi). It was fine; I tried to be chill and matter-of-fact about it, and they took it in the same spirit.

        Mid, I’m sorry that happened to you. People should push back on comments as ignorant as those, and it shouldn’t always be on the NB person to do so. Maybe people are scared of coming off as stern, but being straightforward, polite, friendly even, is possible. (Maybe not quite friendly if the person is being a jerk, but clear and calm).

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I am sorry that is happening for you Mid.

      I dont know if this would help others to signal openness but I wanted to buy a she/hers button to wear on my badge lanyard. It came with he/his and they/theirs buttons. I asked of anyone in the office wanted the ones I did not want.

      It turned into a great convo when someone said they wanted the they/theirs pin. Before that, they had not mentioned their preferred pronouns.

      1. Mid*

        We’re normally fairly “professionally” dressed but since we aren’t having clients in the office, it’s been okay to wear t-shirts, so I’ve been debating wearing my enby shirts and seeing the reactions.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          Are you allowed to decorate your desks? Last year for Pride Month, I hung my ‘Aces are Awesome’ bumper sticker from my desk wall to indicate to my co-workers to yes please come chat with me about Pride and other LGBT stuff, without making a big announcement about it.

          1. Mid*

            Oh! That’s a good idea. People decorate their spaces, but it’s usually not with super personal things—so art and maybe a family photo or two, but nothing political or super personal. But, I think I could find some more artistic style non-binary art work maybe!

            1. DarnTheMan*

              Yeah mine just looks like a tie-dye in the colors of the Asexual Pride flag and then has the ace symbol followed by “are awesome.” It’s one of those things that for those who know, they’ll know and those who don’t either don’t register it or they’ll ask if they’re curious.

  27. Anon Recruiter*

    As someone who has observed a coworker changing their pronouns, I’d want you to understand whether your company’s HR is up to speed on what it means if someone frequently, knowingly misgenders you in terms of a) the type of conduct that is generally considered acceptable and professional in your office, and b) potentially creating a hostile work environment. (The latter may differ depending on the laws in your location and the degree to which they protect trans people? Ugh.) I had a coworker who used they/them pronouns and a person in the office misgendered them all the time even after being corrected multiple times. (It was more than just an occasional “She – I mean they, sorry” mistake; the person seemed unwilling to ever use “they/them” pronouns to refer to anyone.) Unfortunately because that person had been with the company a long time and was from an older generation, the official response was “Oh well, change is hard for some people!” and it really sucked for my coworker.

  28. A Tired Queer*

    I’ve been using “they/them“ in my personal life since June 2018, and when I started at my job in Oct 2018 I stuck “she/they” pronouns on my name plate. Only my Deaf coworker noticed and made an effort, and I think them only because I noticed that she was Deaf and asked her about communication accommodations, so we had a rapport. About a year later, I noticed that several people across the rest of the organization were starting to add their pronouns to their email signatures, so I decided to switch fully to “they/them” and put that in my email sig. I also put the pronouns on my nameplate along with an example set of sentences (“A Tired Queer is a regulatory coordinator. They did that paperwork; you’ll have to ask them about it. It was their problem.”) Since then, my boss caught herself a few times but mostly still calls me “she”. She asks me to correct her, but tbh I never want to interrupt. Two coworkers regularly use “they”, and one of them corrects other people for me (for which I am eternally grateful!). I’ve only had two coworkers be shitty about it: one of them made fun of me and the other gave me an outdated grammar lesson. I responded with blank looks and Captain Awkward’s tried and true “wow. ok.” No further shittiness.
    All that is to say, I think success depends on your office culture. It certainly helps to have an ally or two who will consistently use the right term even in the face of people who insistently don’t. Beyond that, I can just wish you luck!

    1. OP*

      When you put “she/they” in your email, did anyone start calling you “they”? Or did that only start happening when you put “they/them” and removed the “she”?

      1. A Tired Queer*

        So far, the only cause for change that I’ve noticed has been the nameplate and direct conversation. For me, the email signature hasn’t seemed to be a factor at all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it! But it seems not to be very salient for folks (that is, folks seem to gloss over reading email sigs without really processing them).

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I think only adding pronouns to your email sig won’t go anywhere. Lots of people will never notice. I rarely have any reason to read email signature since the To field tells me the person’s name and I know who my colleagues are and what their roles are.

      If you want to make a change, I think there’s need to be some sort of announcement or message and time spent correcting people.

  29. higheredrefugee*

    I worked in higher ed for many years and helped many students who made pronoun transitions while completing their degrees. Most started with a tiered process, friends and allies, then email signatures, and slowly, it caught on over time. It is a different setting, but I was able to help students understand that not everyone who was getting it wrong was mean spirited or bigoted, as some people only see you once a semester or even year amongst 1000s of other students. Consider that lesson with your colleagues too – those that work with you even monthly need to always get it right, a vendor you talk to once every other year, maybe not so much. I compare it to who I fight with about the use of Ms./Mrs. or even pronouncing my first name correctly. I choose to pick my battles accordingly, but you’ll decide over time where to draw your lines. I saw most of my students also decide that fighting every single instance exhausting, so several of them now focus on advocating for broader pronoun choices on forms instead of engaging on the one-off encounters. Good luck finding your initial equilibrium- the balance changes as your role and influence changes, which is another conversation.

  30. Miss Is Not My First Name*

    I work in a place that has had quite a few people change preferred pronouns.
    Generally, they will add their preferred pronouns to their email signature and/or their profile on our intranet. Some have, in addition to that, enlisted the direct support of particular key people in the organisation to start referring to them as their preferred pronoun in conversation and emails.
    All of them have been straightforward about correcting people in a matter of fact way (eg. ‘Actually I go by X’ or ‘It’s X, thanks’).
    The changes that have been more successful/smooth/quicker have been the ones where they have enlisted the extra support.
    From my point of view, I rarely, if ever, look at someone’s intranet profile so email signature flags it more obviously. However, I don’t always signatures particularly if they are from a co-worker.

    There’s never been any kind of big announcement but none of the people have been within my particular department so I don’t know if there were smaller announcements.

    1. Anon Recruiter*

      FYI, “preferred pronouns” is not the most accurate way to talk about this issue – you either get someone’s pronouns right or wrong, it’s not really a “preference.” Think about how you’d feel if you accidentally referred to a cis man who goes by Pat as “she” before realizing that Pat was short for Patrick, not Patricia. You wouldn’t think “oops, I didn’t use Patrick’s preferred pronoun!”, you’d think “oh dear, I made an embarrassing mistake by getting Patrick’s gender wrong.”

      1. Miss Is Not My First Name*

        Thank you, that makes so much sense that I’m embarrassed not to have realised. I shall make sure not to use ‘preferred’ in future.

  31. They/Them, Please/Thanks*

    I’m agender (afab) and I’ve been using they/them pronouns at work for a few years now and my experience has been very mixed, so I would really advise caution and, frankly, I would advise only taking advice from other trans and non-binary people. I don’t mean to sound hostile towards cis people, but there are levels to this that only nb and trans people are really going to understand.
    The first workplace where I tried to switch my pronouns, I told a friendly coworker I trusted and asked her to keep it on the down-low. She panicked, immediately told our manager, and we were both pulled off the sales floor and into HR. It was not a positive experience.
    My current workplace, I was asked upfront by a fellow queer coworker what my pronouns were and so have been using they/them from day one, was allowed to wear a they/them pronoun pin (I highly recommend doing this, there are some very professional ones) and put my pronouns in my email signature. Even then, people were very forgetful until we recently had an LGBTQ+/Gender Identity 101. People have been better about it since then, which is nice!
    I’m sorry I don’t have much actionable advice! It really, really depends on the vibe at your workplace, how most people perceive your gender, and how much energy you have to give. I would suggest having a very flexible approach to when you insist on your correct pronouns or not (I never do with customers or with francophones – I’m in a bilingual city), having a very clear list of who is Worth It and Not Worth It when it comes to trying to educate, and have a stock phrase for correcting people over email, since email is one of the main sources of mis-gendering in an office. I just use, “Hi X, quick reminder that my pronouns are they/them and referring to me as ‘she’ or ‘her’ is not correct. Best, Y.”

    1. OP*

      Did you end up using references from the first workplace when going to your current workplace? Another aspect I’m wondering is that, when interviewing in new places, if it’s going to cause confusion when my references refer to me.

      (In either direction, really. The potential new employer might assume from my name that I’m a “she”, and then get my reference saying “they” – or the potential new employer might a pronoun field and I put “they”, and my reference calls me “she”.)

      1. Web Crawler*

        In my experience, cis people have a hard time noticing pronouns when they don’t fit with their expectations- especially they/them pronouns. Like, I’ll refer to my enbyfriend as “they” and cis people will just randomly use “he” or “she” to refer to them (this happens with people regardless of whether they’ve met them). Or when I got introduced to each person in my department with “this is Web Crawler, he will be working with Team”, and half the company decided to use “she” for some reason.

        Anyway, all of my experience has pointed to cis people not noticing pronouns unless it’s explicitly pointed out to them, and sometimes not even then.

        1. E*

          > Like, I’ll refer to my enbyfriend as “they” and cis people will just randomly use “he” or “she” to refer to them

          Part of this may be because of a flexibility with ‘they’. My husband tends to use ‘they’ as a generic pronoun a lot (“Yeah, I met Brian Cislad in town, I’m not sure they’ll be able to make it next week” or “Anna Cis Belle is slammed with their project at work”) so, being used to that, and even picking it up the habit a bit myself, I likely wouldn’t pick up on an infrequently mentioned absent party being referred to with ‘they’ pronouns.

      2. W*

        If you put ‘they’ and you think your references will say ‘she,’ you can just give the hiring manager a discreet heads-up–it’s no different than you changing your name and needing to let them know some places have outdated information. At least, if you’re already at the point of being out about it.

      3. They/Them, Please/Thanks*

        I did use references from that job and now that you ask, I realize that I don’t know what pronouns my manager used when they talked to her. I know that they didn’t know I was nb until I told them on my first day of work. Honestly though, in my experience, a lot of cis people will not pick up on pronoun hints. My full name is very feminine but I go by a more neutral nickname and the nickname vs full name is the thing that causes the most confusion.
        You know how when you learn a new word, it’s suddenly everywhere? Because your brain used to just gloss right over it because you didn’t know what it meant? Non-binary pronouns are the same. People who are in the know will pick up on hints and email signatures but everyone else will need to be told.

  32. Choupette*

    I worked at a retail store with someone who used they/them pronouns. My coworkers were often younger, but the person in question told some of the people they talked with, one of whom mentioned it to me (“Oh, Stevie uses they/them.”) You could reasonably do that in a smaller environment, paired with your email signature.

    I do like the recommendations to have an ally willing to inform/teach and make corrections as well! You can easily burn yourself out, coming out to everyone one by one, AND telling them what it means. Be sure they understand how you would like corrections to sound — corrections around changing pronouns or names tend for the person being corrected to over-apologize.

  33. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

    Hey OP!
    I’m in a similar boat to you, as I use xe pronouns socially, and I’m slowly starting to use them at work. (Not out to the family yet.)
    Some things I’ve had to consider here:
    – Is the office a safe place to be out? (For example, while my office is great about supporting the LG, it’s mediocre about the B, not great for trans folks, and nonbinary folks are either ignored or get side-eye. I had to consider whether I was going to be opening myself up to weirdness when vocalizing my needs here.)
    – If my office is a safe place to be out, are there other companies that I will interact with in a work capacity that may not be?
    – Am I comfortable speaking up in the moment if someone uses the wrong pronouns? Does that change with different power dynamics? (Right now, I’ve got my pronouns in my Slack profile, and I’m correcting some colleagues, but I’m not necessarily correcting my boss.)
    – If this goes worst-case-scenario, what are my next steps? Am I in a position where I can look for and find a job?

    I don’t regret being open about being agender in my office, but I also was already kind of an outlier in my department. (afab and latinx in an IT engineering field) There are a few other folks in the office who use they/them pronouns, and it ranges from going well to a bunch of passive misgendering. I’m not trying to be grim here, but I also think that this isn’t as simple as some of the other comments are suggesting it might be, and this is going to be a more serious step in some locations and industries than others.
    Good luck, OP!

    1. OP*

      > If my office is a safe place to be out, are there other companies that I will interact with in a work capacity that may not be?

      Oof, this is a really good point. We work with a lot of contractors in a more traditional-leaning field. Thanks for this point!

      > afab and latinx in an IT engineering field

      Hey, me too! Albeit I’m fairly white-passing. I shocked a coworker a few months ago when I mentioned my mom immigrated from Mexico.

      > I’m not trying to be grim here, but I also think that this isn’t as simple as some of the other comments are suggesting it might be

      Yeah, same. I’d encourage/ask the cis folks in the comments to pay special attention to the part of my question that worries about career harm. Y’all are well-intentioned but this question might seem deceptively simple <3

    2. Brett*

      Thanks for this post. I have been very resistant to the use of the word latinx because of the explicit linguistic imperialism of the phrase.
      But… your post made me think about how latinx could be particularly important for you (and the OP) for self-identification. I still have objections to it as a descriptor for ethnicities as a whole (but the debate of ethnic descriptors for people with origins in latin american countries is an endless one with no easy answers), but your post made me think about how well latinx can fit for an individual to describe themselves.

    3. Noble*

      Yeah, I’m also AFAB nonbinary and use xe/xir pronouns, so my general means of testing if a place is safe is to casually bring up other trans and nonbinary folks I know in conversation and see what happens.

      Note: everyone who learned my boyfriend is trans and immediately asked “So…. has he gotten… *the surgery????*” has successfully signalled that I should remain in the closet. (I’m not asking you about your boyfriend’s genitalia at work, Ashley, please return the favor.)

  34. Theo*

    I’m in the middle of this now! COVID has affected my field really strongly, so things have been a little Wild in terms of handling anything but the crisis, but my first step was speaking to my manager to let him know what I wanted to do. Our employee handbook already states we don’t discriminate on gender identity, so I’m starting from a place of strength here. Once we’ve figured out what changing my name looks like in our system, especially since I have no legal name change, I’ll be moving towards swapping my pronouns over as well. My boss has left this largely in my hands — I’ll probably send a brief but cheerful email to my team that basically says “Please use NAME and they/them for me ongoing”, then include in my signature. Eventually I would love to gently drag my department and org towards that as normal.

    This is a great time to do this, if you’re working from home. People might be better at it, since they’re able to edit their emails if they screw up, and it lets them practice. In my case, they won’t have to directly see the person they’ve known as “she”, or deal with the very nonbinary, mixed-gender presentation I usually have — it sucks that my clothing often impacts my correct gendering, but it’s also true, so maybe by the time I get back I can wear whatever and they can still get it right :D (Before anyone makes Fussy Noises, all my clothes are appropriate and professional; they just have a much bigger range of apparent gender than most people’s.)

    My presentation has always been very different from my coworkers’, so I don’t think this will be a surprise, and they’ve already had some practice with one of our temps.

  35. Temperance*

    Does your workplace have an affinity group for LGBTQ+ employees? If so, I’d start there. You’ll find folks there who can give you specific advice about coming out at your place of work. My firm has one, and they’re excellent.

    A few years ago, one of our summer associates was nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. To support them, the rest of the class also added their pronouns to their email signature. It was kind of an organic support thing, but maybe you could approach some friendly colleagues/allies and ask them to do the same? I would absolutely do this to support a friend.

    I would also approach a close colleague and come out in person; I’m often this person for others (which is great! and a huge honor, tbh), and I will make sure to introduce someone to new folks using correct pronouns, like, oh, this is jill, they run X project)), and you will get support.

  36. HR Jeanne*

    HR person here, with another point of view. I have had an employee come to me about 6 years ago asking for they/them pronouns. We were an LGBT-owned business, but this pronoun change was still unusual at the time. I believe that most team members wanted to comply, but the work could be hectic and the desired pronouns were often missed. The employee was adamant about their use and corrected people every single time. This caused frustration for everyone and eventually the employee left.
    My advice would be to please be patient. Your team members will want to use the correct pronouns, but it takes time to create that habit. I believe it will happen over time. Hope this goes well for you!

    1. Carbondale*

      To be honest, it sounds like people were not making a lot of effort to use their preferred pronoun. The workplace being hectic isn’t a great excuse for not using preferred pronouns and I can see why they got frustrated. My sister is trans and though she is patient about about people misgendering her, she does get frustrated when it seems like they are not even trying. I think as an HR person, you are in a good position to be reinforcing the use of preferred pronouns.

    2. Metadata minion*

      If nobody corrects me on a mistake, I’m not likely to remember to get it right. To be honest, this sounds like the employee was pushed out by a hostile workplace that kept misgendering them.

      Trans people know new names and pronouns take time to learn. Trust me. I’m terrible with names myself — I spent six months thinking two new coworkers (in other departments) were the same person, who had the name of a third new coworker. But there’s a huge difference between someone going “she- oh, sorry, they – have the chocolate teapot orders” and someone who perpetually gets my pronouns wrong and gets annoyed when corrected. Emphasizing all the time how NEW and HARD and WEIRD it is makes it the fault of the trans person for daring to want to be addressed correctly.

    3. Savannnah*

      The moral of this story isn’t about patience. It’s about an employee not being supported so much that they had to leave.

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Cis here so trying not to comment in general, but may help for this viewpoint – HR was wrong. The frustration was not caused by corrections. It was caused by people refusing to get it right.

    5. GS*

      Would you have had the same response if all the team members called a dude “she” repeatedly?

    6. Anononon*

      The employee was adamant about their use and corrected people every single time.

      I’m curious what percentage of the time you would find corrections acceptable? If they only corrected people 60% of the time?

    7. Dahlia*

      “My employee was constantly misgendered and we got mad at them for correcting us” is not the uplifting story you think it is.

    8. Littorally*

      It happens when people make the effort to make it happen. “Oh it’s just sooooooo hard” is a shitty excuse, and “shut up and tamely accept people misgendering you” is shitty advice.

    9. Snarl Trolley (genderfluid, nonbinary)*

      Of course it takes some time for a team to learn and enact new pronouns, but you’re telling me that every time this employee got misgendered, *none* of the other team members would step in and make the correction? You let the employee who was already dealing with these things take the full brunt of that on their shoulders? You didn’t try ANYTHING to enforce it? It’ll happen over time if you’re actually fully commited to it – which you demonstrably weren’t. There were so many ways to help this person and help their team, and you just….stood by and did nothing meaningful, while this person was slowly worn away by your and the rest of the team’s total dismissal of their humanity. “Just pronouns” to you, actually intrinsic to ourselves as human beings to us.

      It’s so easy for cis people to say “be patient” when they’re rationalizing doing absolutely nothing to learn and change.

      1. Snarl Trolley*

        (Oh dang, I didn’t realize how many other comments there already were saying similar things. I didn’t mean to add to a pile-on.)

    10. logicbutton*

      “Please be patient, I am/we are trying,” is a very common (and often well-meaning) thing for cis people to say to trans people about getting their pronouns right, and it’s something we should all strike from our mental phrasebooks. Trans people, who are just regular people who were raised in the same cisnormative society and grew up hearing the same binary language as cis people, already know that it takes time to adjust. This is a show-don’t-tell situation – if you can’t show them that you’re trying without telling them, you’re not actually trying.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        100+ – allyship and showing trans and enby people they’re supported is so, so important. One of our student advocates just came out as non-binary and all the staff who work with them have banded together to be each other’s monitor on pronouns so the student advocate doesn’t feel they’re always the one having to correct people when someone else is willing to jump in and say “Remember Poe uses they/them pronouns.”

  37. AdAgencyChick*

    In the process of observing how my workplace is handling this. TPTB have sent out requests that employee email signatures contain pronouns underneath your name and before your job title.

    Many people have done this, but it is not mandatory. I do think it’s a good thing that it’s a company-wide initiative but not mandatory, so that no one feels that it’s either a) calling attention to themselves to have pronouns in an email or b) necessary to change pronouns if one isn’t yet ready to do so for whatever reason.

  38. Happy Pineapple*

    Of course this is specific to my (very large, progressive) workplace, but I’ve seen this transition happen smoothly several times. Many people already include their pronouns in their email signatures, and some even have it link to a web page explaining the importance of pronouns or our company’s LGBTQ+ organization.

    Because we frequently have new hires or internal transfers there are lots of chances to re-introduce yourself to the team. People use this time to announce their preferred pronouns. We also have a company-wide directory where you can edit your own “About Me” page at any time, including prominently displayed pronouns.

    Most importantly I’ve seen folks rally around each other and keep people mindful and accountable with how they address their coworkers. It’s never a big fuss, just a friend jumping in and saying, “Actually, OP goes by “they”,” and moving on with the conversation. Best of luck to you! I hope your workplace is supportive of this new chapter.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      This is what I’ve seen as well–friendly reminders, whether after a transition, or for someone new in the office, or for someone to (accidentally or not, doesn’t matter) misgendered someone else. “Oh, X goes by they/them.” It’s v common to have pronouns in email signatures and in directories as well. And it’s becoming more common for cis people to include pronouns as well. One place it seems to be contentious is when someone’s making a presentation. Do you say, “Hi, I’m X, from the Y department, I’m going to be giving today’s presentation on our quarterly projections, I use she/her/hers?” Some do and some don’t but this is the only place where I think people get slightly annoyed by it.

  39. Liz*

    I’ve had two colleagues change from binary to non-binary pronouns at work. My company is mid-sized (100-150 people) and quite progressive.

    The first was 4-5 years ago, and they changed their pronouns and name. I believe they reached out to their supervisor first to discuss, and their supervisor was the one to reach out to everyone in the department to give us a heads up. I believe she also reached out to the clients this person was working with. They changed their name in their signature, and also added a pronoun line (which has since become a company norm, thanks in part to their advocacy). Having their supervisor run interference I thought worked quite well – it indicated that any questions should go to her first, rather than the person changing their name/pronouns (although I’m sure they still got some questions), and also coming from the supervisor made it feel both official and very routine – her tone was very frank and businesslike and help set the expectation that everyone else should handle it the same way.

    The second person was more recent, and they just updated their pronouns in their email signature and sent an email themselves to the people they worked with the most closely to let us know.

    We’ve also had one other person who’s used they/them pronouns since they were hired, and a few trans folks who use binary pronouns.

    Having pronouns as a default in email signatures (and now starting to be the default in Slack names, as we use chat for communication more and more) helps a lot to both normalize the idea that you can’t assume, and makes it easier for people who change things up. We also have a pretty good culture of feedback that I’ve used / seen others use to privately and gently call out anyone who slips up with incorrect pronoun usage. These things are probably less useful for the OP, but definitely encourage them to anyone with the power to make change in their workplace!

    1. Snarl Trolley*

      Just want to point out the “she/her” and “he/him” aren’t “binary pronouns”. I’m nonbinary and use both she and he at various times, and they certainly aren’t binary then. You can just say she/he when speaking of those specific pronouns.

  40. drpuma*

    My team at a Fortune 50 company works closely with a dedicated small team of outside consultants, and probably close to a year ago I noticed that one of the consultants added they/them pronouns to their email signature. Great! There was never any sort of formal announcement or anything, which is fine, they get to decide how much they want to share and with whom. But… the other consultants on their team still use their old pronouns. I feel super uncomfortable when they do! I wish at least one or two of the other consultants had been deputized to make gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminders to the other consulting team members. I’ve corrected folks at my company, but I’m not sure how the consultant themself feels about it all. (Pre-pandemic, the dedicated consulting team was based in a nearby city and on-site 2-3 days/week. Now everyone’s remote all the time.)

  41. gendervoidkillua*

    i don’t send a ton of emails in my job personally, so what i did when we were in-office was wear a pronoun pin. we also have a site you can use to look up people and see a bio about them, so i put the fact that i was nb and use they/them pronouns there as well. my manager is also super chill with things, and sent out an email (with my permission of course) about my being nb since we just had a new group of trainees start who’ve never seen me in-office, and a lot of people don’t really check the bios unless there’s a specific reason to.

  42. Lea*

    Hi OP,

    I know not every company has a trustworthy HR rep, but if you do, please tell them. I’m in HR for my company, and when someone came to me about it, I handled the work of putting in an IT ticket to switch their gender in the back end to “unspecified” which is the only gender neutral option we have. I also circulated a memo to the people they worked with most, with them NOT cc’d, letting their senior coworkers know, and asking them to have private convos with anyone I left off. I also let them know to have any questions sent to me, and not the person.

    This is obviously not helpful if you don’t have a robust or trustworthy HR department though. I hope you do!

    1. Lea*

      also, just for kicks I’ll add that the response to my email was so entertaining. The person had also changed their name, and most of the replies were on a similar template to a new baby announcement. ie: “Congratulations to them!! What a lovely name!”

  43. Metadata minion*

    I changed to they/them pronouns at work and it went really well! It helped a lot that there’s another nonbinary employee here and they had transitioned first, so it wasn’t a “weird” new thing for the office. I had they/them in my signature for about a year before I officially announced anything, and as far as I could tell nobody noticed. I came out to a few coworkers who I was friendly with outside of work first, and then after a while I told my direct team and my manager passed it on to the other director-type people.

    I also recently decided to start going by my middle name, since it’s more gender-neutral, and having everything over Zoom has been a godsend for that. As with pronouns I’d told work-friends before that so people had heard the new name before, and when I decided I wanted to switch over more officially I just changed my display name and people switched over more or less seamlessly. I was really kind of surprised at how well it worked :-)

    I will say I am *terrible* about correcting people in person. I don’t usually bother if it’s someone I’m not going to talk to very often, but it’s always this horrible guessing game when someone keeps forgetting, of whether they’re doing it on purpose or not. And the longer I avoid talking to them the longer I can put off the conversation, but the more awkward it’s going to be when I finally do ask them directly. There are some people who are jerks about it, but nobody I work with at all closely and the administration seems very supportive. I do have to give the caveat that I’m impressively oblivious to institutional politics and have no desire to go into management, so if this is setting me back “politically” at a level below getting fired, I can guarantee you I will never notice.

    1. Metadata minion*

      One other thing I forgot — I never actually told most non-friend coworkers outright that I’m nonbinary. I just said I was moving to using they/them pronouns. This was mostly because at that point I was still kind of waffling over what descriptor made most sense for my (lack of) gender, but I think that putting it in purely administrative terms may have helped avoid some awkward personal questions, since we’re in an environment where nonbinary identity and they/them pronouns are in general a known thing.

  44. captain captain bane*

    i’m trans and did this though not to they/them!

    – when hunting for my current job i put my pronouns in my cover letter, emails, and made sure my references knew what pronouns to use, and made mention of it in a cover letter if i knew it was a trans friendly employer in an “i would be a great fit for this job and also love the accepting office culture you have” way. my boss asked some straightforward questions after hiring (how to handle people misgendering me, what to put on any forms since i hadn’t changed anything legally, all very respectfully) and its all been pretty chill since

    it’s possible it may impact any future job hunts, but i assumed any employer who would really have an issue with it self-selected out of considering me in the first place, since just listing pronouns isn’t super widespread yet and is still a bit of a signpost for “you’re trans or feel extremely strongly about trans rights”

    – if your work is big enough for hr i think i would have a very casual meeting and frame it more as “i’m going to start asking this of people and just wanted to let you know,” since in the event anyone did get weird it would possibly be referred to hr anyway. think hard about how comfortable you are with a companywide announcement beforehand though, in case they ask if you want that, bc in my case (smallish office) the answer turned out to be not as comfortable as i told hr lol

    – be prepared for someone to ask you where you plan on going to the bathroom. this was the first question i got in front of two of my superiors when i tried to come out at a prior job and i was totally unprepared for anyone to pretty much ask me where i planned to pee to my face lol. still haunted by this to this day. it’s nobody’s business!!!! but be more prepared than i was for uh unexpected curiosity

    1. OP*

      Thank you for your response! Did you feel like your job hunt was changed at all by putting pronouns in cover letters/emails/etc from the onset?

      Wow, the bathroom question! That would catch me off guard too.

      1. captain captain bane*

        not in any noticeable way! i have a ft job in one field and freelance in another totally different one and have never gotten any pushback in either of them. my response rate to applications didn’t change in any way i felt i could chalk up to being up front with my pronouns.

        my jaw dropped honestly! everyone acted like it was perfectly reasonable to ask and it really reshaped my view of office. probably my biggest takeaway was making sure i had someone higher up the food chain than me in my corner/on the same page as me from the outset in future gigs – i didn’t have anybody to go to about the bathroom thing bc the folks i would have talked to about it were in the room where it happened, but my current team lead has been super supportive and positive and i know would go to bat for me in a pinch, which i feel very fortunate for!

      1. captain captain bane*

        thank you!! celebrating that good good new graphic novel content

        i almost went with garyl but captain captain won out!

  45. Logan*

    I changed to “they” pronouns working at a university in a very, very blue state. My boss and many of my coworkers are openly supportive of LGBTQIA+ causes, so I hoped most of them wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    I talked to my boss first, in a 1-on-1 meeting that I scheduled, and said I was changing my pronouns to they/them. (I also was in the process of changing my name.) My boss did not have any problem with it, congratulated me, said she was happy I told her, and asked how I wanted it to be announced to the rest of the team. I told her I’d tell them in staff meeting, if that worked for her, so that’s what we did.

    One person on the team made comments about how it’s hard to be ungrammatical by using “they” for a single person, spent months getting the pronoun wrong, and didn’t handle it well whenever she misused the pronoun – she was either unaware that she did it and didn’t acknowledge it, or she did acknowledge that she’d made a mistake and showed visible annoyance (and I felt that annoyance was more at _me_ than at herself for the mistake, given the context). Eventually this person retired from the team. At no point did I ever correct anyone who used the wrong pronoun – I relied on my team members or my boss to make that correction/talk to them afterward. I did put my pronouns in my email signature.

    A year later, in a new position, I was also told by my boss that there would be a number of professors that we worked with who would never get it right, and to expect that. So even at a university it’s not without its challenges, but

  46. Observer*

    Something I observed working well was that the person making the switch had a few trusted colleagues as backup.

    We don’t frequently use pronouns in a conversation where the person making the change is present. And it seems that it’s easier to help people with the change if someone can offer a matter of fact correction in the moment. For my workplace the conversation went like:

    “We should ask Jane for her opinion. She worked on a similar project last year”
    “Jane uses ‘they’ now instead of ‘she’ or ‘her’. But that’s a great idea. Their project was very successful. I’ll see when they are free for a quick meeting”

    I can’t speak to any conversations that happened in private with bosses or anyone else but I know this helped spread the word quickly without making it into A Thing.

  47. AnonyBlondie*

    I’m an ally, and a member of our company’s Pride workgroup. In early June we learned that a firm had been hired to create a bunch of Pride-affiliated backgrounds for our Microsoft Teams meetings. Plenty of rainbows as well as a number of pronoun declarations. When these designs were finalized, an announcement was made in our company newsletter.
    It sparked a big conversation about pronouns in my department (Recruiting.) We talked about the importance of cis folks declaring pronouns as a way to normalize the conversation, so it doesn’t “other” NB or trans people. Most if not all the folks in my section added pronouns to their email signature.
    My job is to set up interviews, so when I send requests to agencies, I always use they/them when asking about availability. At first I did it because it’s difficult to determine gender on many non-Anglicized names, and then I started doing for all names to normalize they/them usage.

  48. Meredith,*

    We had a coworker change pronouns in our office, at first was that the coworker went back and forth a few times. In our office intentionally misgendering someone is BFD, so people were confused and just completely avoided any pronouns whatsoever. Every conversation was “Jordan was initially going to get that to your department by X, but then Jordan got retasked with Y so now you’ll have to ask Jordan when it will be available”. People had good intentions and no one wanted to be wrong. And it was totally fine of Jordan to try out a pronoun, initially feel like it wasn’t a good fit, and then later on feel like it actually was. But it did cause confusion, so an email signature would be very helpful, letting management know, and dropping it into friendly conversations is always helpful. They were really great about keeping it light and not making coworkers feel bad if they got it wrong.
    We did end up having one employee resign, an older woman who did intentionally keep calling Jordan “she” because they “still look exactly like a girl”, and she was allowed to resign rather than be let go. Management was good about not making anyone think it was because of Jordan, it was very clearly because this person was faced with a work requirement that they chose not to adhere to. There were a few people who were upset about it and cold to Jordan, but Management sat down with them and explained that if we had a white colleague intentionally and repeatedly mispronouncing a POC coworkers name, wouldn’t they be disgusted and horrified? Would they want to work at a place that allowed that?
    So, we did end up with a little friction, but our management definitely took the stance that a “difference of opinion” applies to whether we want bagels or donuts at a meeting, not the dignity and safety of those around us, and we ended up in a better place because of it.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      “a “difference of opinion” applies to whether we want bagels or donuts at a meeting, not the dignity and safety of those around us”

      This should be mandatory training for all D&I, anti-bias, anti-racism efforts.

  49. candlekid*

    Like others have said, I started by adding my pronouns to my signature. I also included a link so someone could self-educate. I also found a trusted ally who added pronouns to her signature before I did. so other people had casually started adding their pronouns before I dropped my. said colleague also started asking for pronouns at meetings and did it at meetings I wasn’t in to build the culture.

  50. Meredith, Supplier Relations*

    We had a coworker change pronouns in our office, at first was that the coworker went back and forth a few times. In our office intentionally misgendering someone is BFD, so people were confused and just completely avoided any pronouns whatsoever. Every conversation was “Jordan was initially going to get that to your department by X, but then Jordan got retasked with Y so now you’ll have to ask Jordan when it will be available”. People had good intentions and no one wanted to be wrong. And it was totally fine of Jordan to try out a pronoun, initially feel like it wasn’t a good fit, and then later on feel like it actually was. But it did cause confusion, so an email signature would be very helpful, letting management know, and dropping it into friendly conversations is always helpful. They were really great about keeping it light and not making coworkers feel bad if they got it wrong.
    We did end up having one employee resign, an older woman who did intentionally keep calling Jordan “she” because they “still look exactly like a girl”, and she was allowed to resign rather than be let go. Management was good about not making anyone think it was because of Jordan, it was very clearly because this person was faced with a work requirement that they chose not to adhere to. There were a few people who were upset about it and cold to Jordan, but Management sat down with them and explained that if we had a white colleague intentionally and repeatedly mispronouncing a POC coworkers name, wouldn’t they be disgusted and horrified? Would they want to work at a place that allowed that?
    So, we did end up with a little friction, but our management definitely took the stance that a “difference of opinion” applies to whether we want bagels or donuts at a meeting, not the dignity and safety of those around us, and we ended up in a better place because of it.

    1. CatWoman*

      “intentionally and repeatedly mispronouncing” ANYONE’S name, regardless of whether the person is POC or not, is just wrong. Or lazy to the point of just not bothering to to pronounce it correctly.

      1. Theo*

        That’s true, but the fact is that people are more willing to take a couple of stabs at Ingmar than they are at Nnedi. Repeated mispronunciation of the names of BIPOC folks is a racist microaggression.

  51. Alex*

    I changed my pronouns kind of gradually over the course of about a year.

    I started by just putting them in my email signature, and then I sort of gradually told co-workers I was closer too and trusted.

    After a few months, I finally got up the bravery to tell my whole team. I did have to do a little bit of educating. I had one co-worker who said he would just avoiding using pronouns because he found the singular they awkward.
    I pointed out that saying a sentence like, “I asked Alex to file the reports and Alex said Alex would do that tomorrow” is significantly more awkward, and that he almost certainly uses singular “they” without even thinking about it, for things like, “Oh, someone forgot their phone, I hope they come back for it.” He immediately realized he was being silly and has been great since.

    I actually shared an Ask a Manager resource ( and people found it very helpful. One of my colleagues actually liked that resource so much she asked for permission to share it with all the organization managers, which I offered to do instead – it was a good way to make sure all of my internal clients were aware of my pronouns.

    I also asked if we could add a space for people to indicate their pronouns on our intranet bios, and that’s coming in our next update.

    Overall, I had a really positive experience. People still forget, and I don’t tend to correct people, but a lot of people catch themselves and do a quick correction, which I appreciate.

    As we transition back into the office, I’m planning to put a pronouns pin on my lanyard as a visual reminder.

  52. doreen*

    Although there were initially some concerns ( mainly about mistakes and quotations in reports ) my government agency seems to have done a pretty good job of handling this issue. We had an actual formal training regarding professional interactions with clients that actually explained a number of concepts ( sex vs gender, and what exactly is meant by orientation, identity and expression ) and explicitly stated 1) that the agency is not trying to change anyone’s religious/cultural/personal views but the employee handbook requires that we be respectful and professional in all interactions 2) Being professional and respectful requires using either the pronouns the individual requests or none at all. One of things that I thought worked especially well was that although the training was focused on dealing with clients , it was basically impossible to get through the training and think it wouldn’t also apply to coworkers. ( since those interactions must also be professional and respectful)

  53. HatBeing*

    Several years ago I worked in HR at a small but progressive environment that had a large percentage of queer employees (just randomly, it didn’t have anything to do with the business). One of my co-workers started using they/them shortly after I arrived and addressed it in our weekly all-hands meeting. Our old school boss had trouble remembering, but did make an effort to change his speech. I quickly added she/her to my email signature, as I figured as a cis woman with a very typically feminine name it was the least I could do to show my support. This was apparently a very powerful show of allyship (it was several years ago!), as my co-worker thanked me in private and my co-workers added their pronouns to their email signature as well.

    I’ve kept my pronouns in my email signature since moving to another organization with nearly no queer representation and it has helped start conversations with folks.

  54. HermitCrab*

    As far as I can tell, my company has handled this well. It took several years, and this is the progression I saw:

    1. Started with an informal, private slack channel where LGBTQ+ individuals could have a safe space to chat, share news, etc. We advertise our existence in the general company channels once a month.
    2. Leadership had a clear buy-in – we have a director and a senior developer (both with plenty of social capital) who pretty much led the way in terms of being out at work, and talking about their partners openly and being business as usual about it.
    3. Multiple people advocating for incremental changes. We work in HR software, so adding an option on forms for nonbinary/other was a big deal and other small changes
    4. For the past two years there’s been an annual diversity/inclusion mandatory training session that was added to the series on IT security, benefits, anti-harassment etc. trainings.
    5. With the focus on diversity and inclusion this year, management added options to slack to add your pronounces and several people put it in their email signatures as well.
    6. I know of one individual who at that point felt comfortable asking people to switch to they/them pronouns.

    I really hope things go well for you! You have people rooting for you.

  55. Molly*

    I work at an LGBT organization and have watched several coworkers transition to new pronouns and/or genders

    I see them typically first start telling friends and direct coworkers. Then they tell IT to change the pronouns in their email signature. HR gets notified of any name changes and they get a new badge. Then it sort of spreads organically. Coworkers correct each other (kindly)

    I imagine it may be different in different work environments

  56. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    I work for a major financial company (with all the conservatism that implies) and we’re positively encouraged to put our pronouns on our signatures and to pay attention to others’ pronouns. Admittedly, some of my more, shall we say, “sheltered” colleagues do find this a bit confusing, but it is becoming more mainstream.

    1. Pwyll*

      Global Inclusion has published a guide on it here, and one of our gender fluid colleagues has their pronouns as a hyperlink to that document so folks can jump directly to it.
      Diversity and inclusion is a top-level priority at our firm right now, and folks who use the wrong pronouns tend to get corrected right away by colleagues as if it’s no big deal (“Tom, Mottie actually uses “their,” not “her”. I think your suggestion is right, let’s move the chart down to the bottom . . .). This is really heavily reinforced by management nowadays.

    2. (Anonymous)*

      That’s awesome. My husband is in the process of transitioning (still using male pronouns but plans to switch to female when he feels he doesn’t come across as overwhelmingly male in his gender presentation) and – unfortunately – his new job is 90% white men with beards. It’s a very tech heavy workplace and we live in the deep south, and we both expect the transition to be a bumpy ride :-( It’s heartening to hear that it’s gone well for so many people on this thread!

  57. Beckett*

    I’m nonbinary and use they/them. Until COVID put the whole industry on pause, I worked in the production side of theatre, which has the bizarre crossover of being the most liberal version of a trade, and the most trade-oriented (with the traditional male-dominated workplace vibes) version of liberal spaces. My personal experience with using my correct pronouns at work is that 1) it does draw attention to you as The One Who Does Gender, if no one else in your company is trans; 2) the frustration of ‘no one calls me the right pronouns because I haven’t told them to’ is totally different from ‘no one makes the effort to call my by the right pronouns’– not necessarily more frustrating, but it will feel different (you’ve probably already experienced this in your personal life if you’ve changed pronouns in that arena); 3) your confrontational style will make a huge difference. I’m conflict avoidant so even though my boss never getting my pronouns right for the first year made me miserable, I didn’t want to talk to him or to HR (since I was the only person who could conceivably be having the issue, reporting to HR was functionally the same as bringing it up directly). A friend coming into the department in year 2 and gendering me correctly and relentlessly, and being willing to do Plural Pronoun for Single Entities 101 on a near-daily basis, was a game-changer.

    On a sort-of related note, I put my pronouns in the header of my cover letter and resume when I apply for jobs, which means I don’t have to come out face-to-face in an interview. Often it’s also meant that my new supervisor will tell the rest of the crew what’s up before I arrive. It doesn’t solve everything, and of course doesn’t apply when you’re trying to come out within an existing job, but it’s helpful if you find yourself entering a new environment and you don’t have to be the first person to advocate for your correct form of address to the group you’ll work with.

  58. Snark no more!*

    I work at a large university. In our department, one person told their supervisor of their preference. This led to us updating our department contact sheet to include a column for preferred pronouns. We circulated this to everyone and gave them the option of filling in a preference. It was very low-key. We also provided suggestions on how to update email signatures.

    THEN, we changed our onboarding contact card to include a space for stating their preference, which gets added to the contact sheet.

  59. unapologetic*

    my coworker announced in the queer slack channel at work that they would like to use they pronouns. they didn’t want to make it a big ~thing~ so they just asked that we start to use they and hoped it would eventually trickle out to the rest of the company.

    we also added recently added an optional pronoun field in our work slack.

  60. Pippa K*

    (Hope it’s ok for me to offer this – I haven’t switched pronouns but have seen it play out in two workplaces. If this isn’t relevant enough, please delete)

    At my workplace (academic) a few years ago: someone transitioned and went from she to he pronouns. It was not a problem, and the only time I heard it come up in conversation was when people reminded others about the new pronouns or someone mentioned feeling bad for unthinkingly using the old ones. This didn’t happen much, because the person also changed their clothing style and appearance in a way that gave strong visual cues.

    Another person at my workplace didn’t transition, just wanted to start using non-binary pronouns, so they put she/they in their sig as a first step. It’s fine; people increasingly specify, and no one thought it was odd.

    Spouse’s workplace: science/tech field, heavily male. Someone switched from he to they pronouns. Again, not a problem; attitudes seem to land somewhere between “No big deal” and “this might be a tough time for the person so let’s figure out how to be supportive but not pry.” Both colleagues and HR seem to be just matter-of-fact about issues of changing name/pronouns/appearance etc. I do think many people find it harder to switch to ‘they’ since that’s a newer style of usage than the traditional binary choices, which often have visual cues as a prompt, but language changes and we get used to it. When people trip over ‘they’ in this case, it doesn’t seem to be out of lack of respect, just sociolinguistic habit. But nobody seems to have a problem with the change – it’s more like forgetting someone’s name change after marriage or divorce, and needing to be reminded a couple of times.

  61. fhqwhgads*

    A good work-friend of mine did this about a year ago. We were about to attend a conference that as part of its name badges allows (but does not require) people to specify pronouns to have printed on there. Maybe a week before they went I was working on something with said coworker and they just said “one more thing, you have no reason to know this yet as I’ve not said this widely but my pronouns are they/them.” And I said something like “got it”.
    My understanding is anyone who outloud referred to them with the wrong pronouns during those few days before that conference, they spoke with privately and had basically the same conversation. Otherwise, most coworkers saw the badge and learned that way, and used the correct pronouns moving forward. The first couple of weeks people would screw it up now and then and apologize and correct themselves midsentence. Or if one used the wrong pronoun without catching themselves, someone else would correct them in the moment. It seemed to go pretty smoothly as far as a could tell. When people got corrected for the most part they’d say “oops, thanks for correcting me” or “sorry, I didn’t know” and then get it right after that.

  62. Holy Guacamole*

    The first time I referred to a new NB coworker in a previous job as ‘her’ (not realising their preferences) in a message they just dropped me a line to say ‘oh hey I go by they/them just to let you know’. I think they must have sent a couple of these messages early on because pretty soon everyone in our immediate team was making a concerted effort to use they/them, correcting themselves over any slips, etc; and it just spread throughout the rest of the workplace. So having even a few supportive teammates who have your back and will consistently use your preferred pronouns will hopefully encourage others to follow suit. Good luck!

  63. Hello*

    I work with someone that uses they/them. The person transitioned to they/them before I got here but it apparently went over well (it helped that the person changed names too). When I started here, I used “her/hers,” not realizing. However, a different coworker pulled me aside and told me that the person uses “they/them”. Maybe you can try and get a coworker on your side to help correct people?

  64. Beth*

    I hope it’s all right for me to post this: I have never changed pronouns myself, but I have, unfortunately, experienced a case where pronoun change didn’t succeed. This happened, not in a workplace, but within an online volunteer organization.

    I was managing an online group that held regular writer support events. One of my lead volunteers went through, not just a pronoun change, but multiple pronoun changes: she to he to they to ze/hir to they again, and then nobody knew what pronouns to use at all. This happened over the course of about three years.

    It started well. The first change went fairly smoothly, with several of the regulars supporting the person in transition, and most if not all participants entirely willing to do their best to respect the change. The second change was rocky. The third got pushback, both from confusion and from people who had trouble with ze/hir. After that, people pretty much avoided pronouns altogether.

    The OP asked about the potential impact on their career. Within this one group, the first request to change pronouns did not have a negative effect, and I don’t think there would have been any real problems with the second. But the multiple changes caused confusion, irritation, and ultimately, resentment and loss of respect. The volunteer gradually became more isolated, as people began to avoid direct interactions with them.

    I also noticed that the change to “ze/hir” was met with a much higher level of resistance than any other change, and not entirely because of the confusion and fatigue.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for the thoughts here. It sounds like I might want to let this happen for longer socially/in my friends’ circle, so that I can get a “measure twice, cut once” approach when applying it to a professional environment.

    2. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

      > I also noticed that the change to “ze/hir” was met with a much higher level of resistance than any other change, and not entirely because of the confusion and fatigue.

      That’s been my experience with using xe/xir. Neopronouns in general seem to get more side-eye and confusion than they/them does. (I’ve gotten a few “well aren’t you just a special little snowflake” reactions, including from LGBT folks, because I’m ‘being nonbinary incorrectly’.) I think for some people, the underlying thought is “okay, there’s three neat little boxes, not two. Everything still needs to go into boxes.”

      1. Beth*

        I did a lot of thinking about it, at the time and afterwards. There’s more than just the “little boxes” going on: I think you’re up against an entire different issue of linguistic flexibility, and the lack thereof, at least in the English-speaking world.

        English is fundamentally flexible on most parts of speech: it easily creates, absorbs, and modifies nouns and verbs. There’s always resistance from individual people who insist that “that isn’t a word” or “that’s a verb, not a noun/a noun, not a verb” or “true and correct language is dyyyyingggg”, but the resistance is coming from the individuals: the language itself offers no resistance at all.

        Similarly, new adjectives are easily created from nouns and verbs, and new adverbs are created from verbs, some of which were created from nouns. New exclamations are created all the time. There’s the same kind of individual pushback, but the language itself offers no resistance.

        I don’t know of any new conjunctions, or any mechanism by which they can evolve or be adapted. New prepositions are almost never created; if anything, we lose prepositions to obscurity, without creating any more.

        Pronouns are like prepositions: we lose them, and it’s an uphill struggle to regain them. We’re starting to get singular they/them back, but I doubt we’ll ever regain thee/thou. And I don’t know of any mechanism by which new pronouns can be coined, that will actually be absorbed into the language.

        I believe that is at the heart of the “isn’t that special” and “that’s just made-up words” pushback that you get. You aren’t getting any help from the structure of the language; you’re hitting a linguistic wall. For actual new pronouns to be added to English, they must go through a process of adoption and absorption that no other kind of word requires, and I don’t know if it is even possible. I’ve been watching this specific struggle go on for at least forty years, and I have not yet seen any headway.

        1. Metadata minion*

          “And I don’t know of any mechanism by which new pronouns can be coined, that will actually be absorbed into the language”

          English has acquired several second person plural forms in different dialects since we lost thee/thou :-) It’s certainly much harder to add a new term to a closed set like pronouns, but it’s absolutely possible. There’s been an enormous change in the acceptance of nonbinary pronouns even in just the last few years.

    3. Noble*

      I’ve definitely also noticed the strong neopronouns pushback – occasionally even from binary trans people! People get actually angry about being asked to use xe/xir for me. The only people who have ever managed to use those pronouns consistently were people who are either trans or queer and extremely familiar with trans people.

    4. GS*

      My real pronoun is “it”, I occasionally (and maybe someday more than occasionally) use they/them but “it” comes with an awful lot of baggage for folks (objectification, dehumanization, disrespect) so I’m not willing to come out that way. I’d never thought of it as akin to ze/hir but I can see that the resistance might be similar.

  65. But what if ...*

    Our company allows you to choose pronouns to be displayed on our internal directory, and some folks have started adding it to their email signatures as well. I’ve also seen some people that have their name in Bluejeans (our meeting system) set to be “Name (pronouns)”

  66. Sapphire*

    Yo, I’ve also switched to going by “they/them” at work. The general advice of just adding them to your email signature is a good one, though my experience with this was… not smooth. I was reprimanded by my grandpa’s for “not following the standards of email signatures” and in retrospect, this should have been a clue that I was about to be fired. (This director also tried to find reasons to fire every openly queer person on the team after I was terminated).

    I don’t say this to scare you out of doing it, because you deserve to be calls what you want to be called (no matter how inconvenient the cishets might find it). Rather, it’s not a bad idea to read the room and find out if this move would be acceptable before just doing it. Maybe talk to a coworker who’s been there for a while and find out if it would raise eyebrows. Good luck!

  67. they babe*

    Hey! I’m a person who uses they pronouns. I hope things go well for you. I wish very hard that I could switch at work but outside of my department, which would probably be fine, the company is very old school AND very gossipy and I’m the only visibly queer person in the entire building… it’s just a can of worms I don’t want to open. If I *were* going to switch pronouns I’d do it by quietly putting them in my email and then making a short announcement in our team meeting. Best wishes for you xoxo

  68. GS*

    Gosh, I wish everyone who replied “my company has pronouns in our email signatures” also added some information about whether there was observed correct gendering on non-binary pronouns or pronoun changes.

  69. Sapphire (they)*

    Frankly, I’m a little frustrated with all the “I’ve never changed pronouns but I know someone who has” commenters here when they were expressly told to not offer their voices. Sometimes it’s good for allies to speak up for us, but this instance isn’t one of them.
    I’m also guessing it’s not helpful to hear stories about how a nonbinary employee frustrated other people with their pronouns. We already know the world is inconvenienced by us existing. :(

    1. Obeserver*

      Alison did ask for people who have observed it going well. If we misunderstood that then that’s fine, but “Someone in my workplace changed pronouns by doing XYZ and it seemed to work well” does seem within the paramaters set.

      I do agree that the “Please be patient with your cis hetero employees when you frustrate them with your existence” is a load of BS.

    2. Beth*

      We were also asked if we had observed “how a workplace handled this well or not well”, and what potential impact there might be to a career. And we were asked to identify our posts accordingly.

      Out of all the pronoun changes I have observed (at least 20 at this point in my life), only one did not go well in a (volunteer) work setting. That is the outlier event I reported on.

    3. Snarl Trolley*

      I have to agree. :/ There’s no way most cis people are going to see all the little ways (or many of the big ways, even) that a nonbinary employee might be experiencing a change in work culture and treatment after transitioning pronouns. Lots of very nice and well-intentioned optimism here but…..We already know how little that means in reality. Not really helpful.

  70. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My company has an extensive guide for handling an employee transition. I would start with HR and see if they have anything similar that you can use. I understand that you may not be physically transitioning, but if they have any sort of policies in writing, it might give you some guidance on what the best steps are for you.

    Good luck!

  71. Anonymous Guy*

    I am not non-binary, so my experience will be different from yours, however I did medically transition in a previous workplace (Context: I’m a transsexual guy, longtime medically transitioned, non-disclosing of my medical history in my daily life these days).

    The way you present the information helps set the tone for the response. At that previous workplace, I was working and living as male when I started, though I hadn’t yet begun my medical transition, so I often had to assert my pronouns initially (“actually it’s he/his” or on the phone “actually it’s sir, not m’a’am” etc). If people messed up, I corrected them politely, and if they tried to profusely apologize I would smile and do my best to be patient and try to move the conversation along.

    When I went through a name change while on the job, all were already familiar with my pronouns and that I identified as male. I spoke privately with my manager, who got me a corrected nametag, and then later made announcements in group meetings with my two work units. Some people clapped, which was sweet, albeit a bit weird. A few people after that tried to engage in 1-on-1 conversations with me about general “trans topics,” and I politely said I wasn’t comfortable discussing that at work, but if they wanted more information I could point them to an informative resource.

    It can be awkward, but if going by non-binary pronouns is going to make you feel more comfortable, it’s worth it. I think politely setting boundaries and setting the tone in advance are what help. I’m not saying I didn’t deal with a lot of discrimination in my workplace– I did. However, my manager always had my back.

    1. Anonymous Guy*

      As your question about career harm:

      I don’t have longterm career harm issues from having transitioned in the workplace, as I don’t disclose my trans medical history in my daily life– to be clear, the decision to be private about that has nothing to do with career fears, and everything to do with what feels authentic for me.

      That said, in the workplace where I transitioned while on the job, I had a lot of issues. There were fights to access male restrooms, challenges to getting a nametag with my name on it (before the legal change had occurred, though other employees had no such challenges with their non-legal names on nametags)… This was before trans issues were really in the public discourse. Things that helped included having a manager who supported me, and helped fight some battles on my behalf. My manager didn’t know much about trans issues, but she learned through me what I needed to succeed in the workplace, and she understood I was being disrespected.

      I did have to make very clear to my manager and my supervisor what my boundaries were, and as I continued to work there as new staff came in, I met with my manager and my supervisor to make sure they knew that I considered my trans status to be private medical information I did not want disclosed, and that while I had transitioned on the job, that I did not wish to be known as a trans guy (and that if I had been able to transition prior to joining that workplace, it would not be information I would have ever shared.)

      I know that’s likely very different from your experience, but setting the tone helped a lot with getting my needs met.

  72. insert pun here*

    Two things that I’ve observed that seem to work well: one, as many others have said, have an ally/cheerleader/gentle enforcer ready to go. It helps if that is someone of stature at your organization, ideally your boss, but can also work if the person is the kind of long-tenured employee who everyone respects because they really know their stuff, regardless of their actual job title. Obviously this is workplace-dependent.
    Second, I have also seen well-meaning cis people worry that asking for pronouns, as a universal policy, is too personal (i.e., what if we’re making someone out themselves before they’re ready?) In that case, it helps to frame this less as “disclosure about big personal thing” and more as “we are asking people how they want us to refer to them, no more, no less.” The fact that this usually (but not always) matches a deeply held internal feeling of gender is irrelevant — we want to get it right, in the same way that we want to make sure everyone’s name is spelled correctly in the company newsletter (or whatever), regardless of whether they go by a nickname or their middle name or the name on their birth certificate.

  73. legal rugby*

    Hey! I’m someone who uses she/hers, but presents as pretty androgynous. More importantly, I work in equity and diversity, so for my employer, I am usually the person who works with a person who is choosing to share their identity with folks. For your consideration, some of the things I ask during the conversation(s) about how a person prefers to handle it – much of this is aimed at folks transitioning, but some of it might be helpful.

    1) do you want to talk to your boss first, would you like me to, or would you like to do it together? At some point, I will have a conversation with your direct supervisor to coach them on how to respond if folks are uneducated or rude about it, and make it clear that the organization expects them to handle this with care and respect, as a part of their supervisor duties. That conversation can happen before, during or after yours.

    2) We offer SAFE zone training. how would you feel about us offering a session specifically for your coworkers. Facilitators would be made aware of why the department is being offered a special session so that they can handle questions with discretion while also not making the whole thing about you. If you are interested in this, are there other interfacing departments that you might want this offered to?

    3) Email/external clients. For folks changing their name, we ask how they want to handle it. Most with a new name choose to get a new email, and if its uncommon contact, to just go by the new name and not clarify who the person is reaching. Sometimes if they have specific people they work with regularly, we offer the suggestion of saying “oh, they finally updated my email to my correct name and pronouns.” For pronouns, we’ve found that someone changing theirs and including it in their emails will frequently initiate a spate of folks including it.

    4) Do you need any help with FMLA/medical forms? (This is for when folks are choosing to share their identity because they are undergoing a surgery or other process that they are taking time off for, and they want use a different name or pronouns upon their return.)

    I’ll be honest, we are pretty supportive – I’m an attorney by trade, if not position, and my employer has previously had me assist folks changing their name by representing them during the process. A lot of our process is built around a one on one conversation with the person about how they wish it to be handled. Our “plan” is more of a checklist of various departments, and describing for the person what we’ve done in the past/can do, so that we can tailor it to them. If you dont have someone who is familiar with the issues that might arise, or you dont have a HR department that sets the expectation of supporting you as part of their supervision role, you could get push back.

  74. These Tiny Keyholes*

    I’m nonbinary and came out at work last fall, asking my coworkers to use they/them pronouns for me. I work in communications for a university and I talked to my direct manager first, then to the VP of our department, then sent an email to the department (of about 25 people). I was incredibly nervous about it but many of my coworkers responded with lovely encouraging messages, and nobody was outwardly weird about it.

    But then most people promptly forgot. My manager and a few other coworkers have been great, and I appreciate their efforts a lot, but it hasn’t been a totally smooth switch. The biggest factor is that I’m terrible at reminding and reinforcing my pronouns when someone gets it wrong, which is a constant internal struggle between “What has the higher psychological cost today: Being misgendered or summoning the courage to correct a coworker.” Because coming out isn’t something that you just do once and then it’s over, it’s a lifelong process.

    It’s also been challenging because I haven’t changed my name, and although I started HRT in December most of my coworkers haven’t seen me outside of a tiny Zoom screen in four months. So they forget, and I don’t bother to correct them, and the misgendering continues, alas.

      1. These Tiny Keyholes*

        No, and I would be the first one to do that, but I’ve been thinking about it.

        1. legal rugby*

          It could be a great small reminder. If you have one or two good friends who’ve been supportive, you could also get them on board.

    1. I'm probably lost right now*

      I’m also nonbinary and in academia (in a reddish state) and came out at work at the start of the spring semester. I talked to my Dean and the rest of the administrative staff first, then made an announcement at a department meeting and at the start of each of my classes. I also added pronouns to my email signature (which isn’t common at my workplace) and changed them in the database.

      I didn’t get any direct pushback – the people I work with most closely were curious and supportive, others just sort of nodded – but people have varied widely at how well they remember, and I’m like you in that I’m not consistent about reminding/reinforcing my pronouns (especially right now when people are stressed out about so much other stuff). It doesn’t help that I’ve been in this job 11 years, so they had a lot of time to get used to calling me by my old pronouns.

      Also like you, the switch to Zoom seemed to make that worse (I’m not on HRT and my appearance hasn’t changed significantly, but somehow the distance of a computer screen makes it harder for people to remember). I got some they/them pins but they’re mostly not very visible over Zoom. In person, I think they would help a lot more.

      Several people in this thread have suggested looking for allies who can support you in the reminding/reinforcing and that sounds like something I should try to ask for more explicitly. I hope we both (along with everyone else in this boat) see improvements!

  75. lacroixlaqueer*

    I changed my name and pronouns at a workplace six months into working there. I took this approach: first, I talked to my supervisor about it and came up with how to notify coworkers. I sent a company wide email with my updated name and pronouns, with some examples of how to use they/them grammatically and that I was open to answering questions. I also chose a couple of my team members to be advocates and correct others when they slipped. I’d say half the people (out of about 30 employees) got it right consistently. At my next job, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my correct pronouns, unfortunately. However, I’ll be starting a new job where I’m certain my pronouns will be respected. All that to say, your mileage may vary & I wish you the best!

  76. Lobsterp0t*

    She/her, but a manager in my work group uses they/them. They took the opportunity to directly share that with all of us recently (though for those playing along, they’ve always had their pronouns in their email signature) – everyone was super keen, and very happy to be reminded if needed. Personally I felt like people’s responses were broadly positive, but I think people need to find their own strategies for remembering pronouns, and really try not to rely on reminders.

    Captain Awkward had a cute comment about this a while back, I think, in which a person commented that a parent of a non-binary teen had suddenly started getting their pronouns right – the parent confessed, rather adorably I felt, that they imagined the teen had a tiny mouse friend in their pocket at all times. It helped them get over the initial grammar instinct and – most importantly for the non-binary person in daily interactions – use the right pronouns!

    The deeper understandings can come later, on people’s own time (and may never come for some people), but the behaviour is crucial and a sign of good faith efforts.

    My work produced some excellent support documentation this February which include transitioning at work, glossary of equality and inclusion terminology (which goes way beyond LGBT+ terms) and pronouns in email signatures. So far I have seen it be followed through on and embraced by colleagues.

  77. Brett*

    I am wondering about the experiences for people in a workplace where English is not the primary language?
    At one point, pronouns in email signatures was a routine practice in my workplace, but then the primary language was switched away from English, and that seemed to change the practice. I am particular wondering how this works in workplaces where the primary language does not have gendered pronouns (we switched to a gendered primary language, but many of my co-workers primarily speak languages without gendered pronouns).

    1. Pathfinder Ryder*

      I’ve been wondering about this too – my workplace heavily encourages the use of te reo Māori so my email signature is bilingual with te reo first, and te reo doesn’t have gendered pronouns.

    2. WS*

      My previous workplace did this, using English (which has gendered pronouns) and Japanese (which…sort of does, but they’re more related to politeness than gender and they’re generally omitted anyway). There was major, major pushback against a person changing from male to female pronouns from most of the older employees in both languages, and from younger cis male employees in English, who were probably a majority, but not so much in Japanese. I was one of the “contact point” allies (I’m non-binary but wasn’t out at that workplace) and had to do a tremendous amount of Gender 101, over and over, and at one stage was given a strongly negative performance review from a senior manager whom I had prompted to use correct pronouns. I was fine to do this, and would rather I was doing it than the person who transitioned, but I got the feeling that it didn’t really help her either, and she was also constantly questioned because the managers encouraged it. She left the company by the end of that year, I and one of the other two allies left in the following year. This wasn’t the only reason, but it was certainly part of it, and I’m glad I found out what that company was like. I still haven’t started using my preferred pronoun (they/them) at my current workplace.

  78. What the What*

    A colleague of mine began transitioning, and they changed their name and their pronoun. They had a name tag made (I think it cost around $10 at a local printer) that had something to the effect of “FIRST NAME” and then below that “(pronoun: they/them)”. Even though the workplace didn’t typically use name tags, the name tag served to remind people that a change had taken place.

    Then they also did the same thing in their email signature.

  79. They Sometimes*

    I am someone who uses they/them pronouns among my friends and outside-of-work acquaintances, but I’ve actively decided not to come out at work. I work in a very small firm, in a conservative field (law), and I would consider coming out at the right workplace but that isn’t this one. I go by my nb name (framed as a nickname that I use instead of my legal name), but I’m afab and my new name is usually coded feminine so it doesn’t usually raise “transgender” flags– if it did, I think I would have much more trouble getting people to use my name.

    My main concern when deciding whether to use they pronouns is my boss. He is an active member of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian lobbying group that is working to overturn gender discrimination provisions in my state. I can work with him without too much conflict if I don’t come out, and I would like to continue that for a few years because this firm is one of the only ones doing disability rights work in my state and that is the field I would like to continue to work in.

    However, for me it’s becoming clear that never coming out (and actively concealing my life) is a huge burden on me mentally, and so I’m taking stock of this thread and taking tips for when I do move jobs and can move forward with coming out. It gives me a lot of hope that coming out as nonbinary is so common (and so commonly successful) that most of this thread is positive tips. I hope that as you’re reading, OP, your job sounds more like theirs than like mine and that you have a good experience coming out!

  80. Rachel*

    I am a manager of a team of 20 in a municipal library setting. Last year an employee sent out an email stating they would be using they/them pronouns. They also gave some ideas of what that might look like. Because we deal with the public, they also noted that they would not be addressing every customer that gets it wrong, but asked that staff work to get it right. The email included some links to explanations online. I thought the email struck just the right tone, made the ask (use they/them), gave examples, provided more information if people wanted. They also have a cute little plaque on their desk.

  81. Just want to be polite*

    This may be a dumb question but idk where else to ask it, and this seems like a good opportunity.

    One of my coworkers uses “he/him & they/them” pronouns. “Matt” says these pronouns in person, puts it in email signatures, etc. Does Matt actually prefer one of them? Does it literally not matter which one I use? Other coworkers go by they/them pronouns exclusively so if Matt wanted that they wouldn’t be the only one to do so.

    1. Obeserver*

      I’d ask Matt. I have a friend who prefers they/them but also likes masculine pronouns, especially as they are gender fluid, leaning masculine. They have said that “they” is always a safe bet but on the days they are feeling particularly masculine “he” and “him” are well received. However they also know that it’s unfair to ask random people to guess where they are on the spectrum and have said “”They” is the better default but I will never be upset if you pick “he/him””.

      Anyway, Matt may not feel the same way as my friend but I’ve usually seen people be open to answering the question if more clarification is needed.

      1. Just want to be polite*

        Hmm it’s a coworker, not a friend, and I feel like that is a very personal question. It may well be the same situation as your friend. Maybe I’ll send a quick slack or something

        1. barecca*

          Suggested script: “Hey, I noticed you have both “he/him” and “they/them” in your signature line. I want to be respectful–is there one you prefer over the other?”

          1. Darcy*

            I would leave out “I want to be respectful” – most trans people I know have a very strong association with that particular phrase preceding a wildly inappropriate question and it will make a lot of people cringe. Just “I saw you have they/them and he/him as your pronouns so I wanted to check – do you prefer one or do you want people to use a mix of both?” is fine.

            You wouldn’t include the thing about wanting to be respectful if you were asking a cis person a small question like which shortening of their name they prefer so it comes off a bit over the top in my experience.

            1. barecca*

              To be clear, I feel that it comes across really differently as something like a Slack message than in person, and I don’t feel it’s a problem to use in any situation. I’ve definitely used (and experienced others use) the expression when asking about something like someone’s preference for Matthew or Matt. But yes, I agree that if it’s a verbal ask, there’s a stomach-drop feeling that somebody’s about to ask about genitalia or other private matters.

        2. Dahlia*

          It’s really no different from seeing Matt use Matthew sometimes and asking which you should use when.

  82. SB*

    Solidarity, friend! I am in the very early stages of this process, my plan (once i work up the courage) is to drop a pronouns line in my email signature and dare anyone to say anything about it.

    That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my planning – seeing the stories here is really validating. Wishing you well OP!

  83. Joseph*

    I changed my name and gender at work by informing my supervisor, who had a brief meeting that didn’t include me (or my husband, who also works here) to say that I would be transitioning and now my name would be “Joseph” (not my real name) and my pronouns “he/him”. He set an expectation that both of those things would be respected in the workplace, and I think he said that if anyone had questions or concerns, to bring them to him, not me or my husband.

    As far as I know, no one did; it’s a government workplace and we are all pretty hyper-aware that sex, gender, race, marital status, partisan politics, etc. are big no-go topics. I was fortunate in that my boss at the time was a tough military vet and had had several of his military/veteran friends change genders, and was already used to the sort of issues that tend to arise around gender transitions.

    For people outside my immediate small team, I just had my email display name changed, and put a pronoun line below my name in my signature. If people call me “ma’am” or “Josephine”, I just say “Oh, actually, I changed my name and gender in March 2019, so it’s now ‘Joseph’, thanks.” Assuming that everyone is simply making absent-minded mistakes and just needs a reminder has been the best approach for me.

  84. BridgeNerdess*

    One of my mentees recently changed their name and pronouns to they/them. For context, I work in a fairly conservative industry in the midwest, so not a bastion of liberalism.

    But! It was a complete non-issue. They first discussed things with their direct manager and director. Then updated their name in the email/messaging/phone system. They reached out to several trusted individuals and shared more info on their transition and several of us have helped remind others to use they/them on the rare occasion people mis-gender. But it’s seriously rare. Even the old guy who can barely operate excel has nailed the new name/pronoun and even more importantly, I have not seen/heard/witnessed any negativity toward this person. I was also responsible for hiring this person, so maybe people just don’t offer negative opinions in my presence. I have been completely impressed by how the company handled it.

    Honestly, it was so minor. And everyone has been totally fine, even with bathroom use, in an area and industry not known for being tolerant or inclusive.

    I hope it is just as much of a non-issue for you. Best of luck to you.

    1. BridgeNerdess*

      For additional context, this person is fairly entry-level and I’m mid-level seniority. They were with the company a year before making this change. They also do stellar work and were well known for their work ethic, which I have no doubt contributed to the response. It really was “Of course we can accommodate this, this is no big deal!”

  85. inthemiddle*

    I work in K-12 education, and would like to transition to they/them. It’s super fraught.

    Last year, I added “she/her” pronouns to my email signature, partly as a way to support the kids in my school–if they got an email from me, they could see that I support choosing your own pronouns. I was asked to remove this because it didn’t fit with the format of email signatures for the school and some people were getting offended (I guess) by some faculty doing it and feeling pressured to do it themselves when they didn’t want to. Kids noticed when it went away, and that totally sucked, because in the end I did more harm than good in including them–the kids got to see the erasure that I was trying to fight against. And this was cisgender pronouns, so truly not controversial at all! The admin who had to tell me to remove them was NOT happy about it and didn’t agree with it, and I haven’t addressed it with the Big Boss. I was too angry to trust myself having that conversation.

    Anyway, now I would like to add they/them, and I know I can’t do it via email signature. I feel like it’s important to find a way to do it, both for myself and for my students, but I have no idea how to go about it. There are definitely people at my school who are anti anything that isn’t cisgender identity, and a lot of what we do at the school is very gendered. In terms of what the school says officially, they are supportive of all identities (it’s not a religious institution or anything, and we supposedly promote diversity), but erasure of queer identity is a huge issue.

    I was happy to see this question because it is so relevant, but I personally feel kind of hopeless in my own situation. I think I’m at a point where my need to be myself is going to outweigh my fear over what will happen at school, and I know I’ll get support from a number of people and places and I don’t think I’ll lose my job or anything. But I am scared of how whatever happens to me will impact the kids. If a colleague refuses to use they/them, for example, in front of kids, then suddenly the kids are going to be more aware of the erasure and disapproval or whatever than they would have been. As happened with the pronouns on my email last year.

    1. barecca*

      This sounds really painful, and I hope administration changes their mind. I’ve been around bunches of teachers who are Mx. Lastname, and it’s certainly not *easy* but it’s not this hard.

  86. Kara S*

    Hello OP! About six years ago, I worked at a company where someone requested we use they/them pronouns. This was the first time this had happened in my workplace. They talked to our boss, he told everyone what was happening individually and casually (ex “Kate will be sending that tomorrow. By the way, they now use they/them pronouns.”). Everyone followed it without issue. People occasionally slipped up but almost always realized the mistake when someone else continued using they/them (and if not, it would be pointed out).

    As an outsider to this, I think it helped that our boss made it gently but firmly obvious this was not optional. He was also not only Kate’s direct boss but a supervisor for the entire project so it was unlikely anyone would push back. He was also openly gay which I would imagine made it more comfortable for Kate to approach him in the first place.

    Kate also would wear a jacket that said “they/them” on the back as well as a pronoun pin quite often. I don’t know if this was to remind people or just part of their style but it certainly helped everyone remember.

    I lived in a fairly liberal city and everyone on Kate’s team was under 35 (except our boss). I would imagine these helped as well as some of our team already had experience using they/them pronouns and were able to help correct those that were new to it.

    1. Kara S*

      Also for additional context — this person was entry level and extremely young. Neither of these things made the team take the change less seriously.

  87. ProdMgr*

    I’m on my second job (both in tech) since I started using they/them pronouns about two years ago. Both have been heavy on remote work, especially the second one which had a fully virtual onboarding due to Covid.

    At the first job, my manager noticed the pronouns in my Twitter profile and made a conscious effort to start using them before I’d even said anything. That meant a lot. I later posted something in a company Slack chat about Merriam Webster having added singular “they” to the dictionary, and mentioned that I use they/them pronouns. I got a few really nice supportive notes and people made an effort. When I hired people onto my team, I also gave them a heads-up.

    At the second job, I introduced myself with my pronouns to my team and included them in my email signature. It’s a much bigger organization and it has been more work to make it stick. I posted a short reminder to my team on Slack a few weeks ago and people responded positively.

    I have some rules around how I manage this. I don’t correct people during meetings because it’s disruptive (especially on video calls). I do push for accuracy in broad written communication (like when my predecessor wrote an email introducing me to some stakeholders, or bios for customer-facing things). If someone apologizes for a mistake, I try to be really clear that it’s okay. Changing speech patterns is hard, I’ve spent years trying to stop addressing groups as “guys” and I still do it.

    One thing I do have a hard time with is that I’m in a male-dominated tech organization. When women say something about how great it is to have another woman in the org, I always feel a little awkward about it but I don’t say anything. I try really hard to be supportive of women in tech despite not identifying as one anymore.

    1. Miss May*

      I definitely had the image of Janet from the Good Place saying, “Not a lady!” for your last paragraph.

    2. Snarl Trolley*

      “When women say something about how great it is to have another woman in the org, I always feel a little awkward about it but I don’t say anything. I try really hard to be supportive of women in tech despite not identifying as one anymore.”

      Not in tech, but used to be in a similar cismale-dominated field, and as a nonbinary person, I struggled with this for AGES until finally settling on responding with, “Us marginalized genders gotta stick together!” or something similar. Yeah, a little bit of a side-step, but especially for initial meetings with someone, it maintained solidarity without being like “Ah yes. A woman. A….human woman. That is what I, also, am.” :P

      1. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

        Can I steal that trick? I’m stealing that trick. I struggle with the same thing.

      2. GS*

        I work in a male-dominated field that’s becoming more woman-friendly and has plenty of those “women in field” and “woman of the tear” and whatnot. As a pangender AFAB I feel some guilt about “co-opting” women’s spaces when I’m pretty much not a woman, but I still join those groups sometimes. I believe I will use your wording, although to be honest it feels appealing to say “Ah yes. A woman. A….human woman. That is what I, also, am” and then smile very broadly.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      One thing I do have a hard time with is that I’m in a male-dominated tech organization. When women say something about how great it is to have another woman in the org, I always feel a little awkward about it but I don’t say anything. I try really hard to be supportive of women in tech despite not identifying as one anymore.

      I have this problem myself. I’ve paid the price of being female appearing in tech, and am still paying it even though I don’t identify as a woman any more. At my current workplace, the Women in Tech ERG is more aware of non-binary folks (yes, I’ve been nudging it) so it’s not quite as awkward.

      One group I’m in puts it as “not men”, but that has some issues too.

  88. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    Colleges and universities (like my employer) seem to be good examples of how to incorporate use of they/them pronouns into the everyday culture. A lot of what seems to be working well is people of all genders adopting the convention of pronouns in email signatures, but it’s not mandatory or universal. It seems to signal generally, “we are an organization that gives employees space to identify themselves if they choose to, and we respect it when we see it.” So, I would echo the commenters who suggest looking for friends/coworkers who might be willing to also include pronouns in their signature lines as a way of signaling that this information is neutral and commonplace to communicate in that way.

  89. Mara*

    I’m someone who saw a pronoun change handled badly in my workplace and the attempts of the team and organization to do better afterwards. Caveat 1: We work in an environment where english is not the first language, and the language and I would say the society is general is further behind in the recognition of gender neutral identity and pronouns. Caveat 2: I am cis, and I obviously cannot speak for the individual in this story, all I can comment on is what happened after. I absolutely believe them that they were bullied and harassed.

    A former non-binary coworker on a team adjacent to mine resigned a couple of years ago and cited feeling unsupported, and having been bullied and harassed for various aspects of their identity including their gender identity as why they left. To my understanding, they had disclosed they/them pronouns to a small, what they had at the time perceived as safe, group of immediate coworkers but not to the whole team. I was not in management and do not know whether they disclosed their pronouns to management or HR.

    After they resigned with a public statement about their experiences, the larger team that I’m part of debriefed about what had happened. Many people were taken by surprise and seemed genuinely gutted that we all may have contributed to a toxic environment for this person. Everyone was going over every interaction they could remember with the coworker to identify things that they had said that were or could have been problematic. It became public that the small group of safe coworkers didn’t know (and as far as I know hadn’t asked) whether the coworker was ready to be out at work, and so continued to misgender them to other team members in trying not to out them. Many of the older team members had never heard of anyone identifying outside of the gender binary and had a lot of questions in the debrief about what it meant and what language they were supposed to be using.

    Due to the very public nature of the resignation, the organization put together mandatory company-wide diversity training to try and educate and start a conversation about oppression, discrimination and harassment, racism, homophobia and transphobia in the workplace. I think it was a good first step but I also had the sense that some coworkers were more interested in their own perceived oppression than in engaging with what they were learning.

    My takeaways were as follows: as a gay person who is very cognizant about not wanting to out people, I empathized hugely with the group who knew and didn’t speak up. I learned I need to ask clear and direct questions to be able to advocate for my coworkers in the way that they are most comfortable with. I need to speak up and educate colleagues about gender identity so that they don’t have the excuse that they didn’t know. My pronouns are on my social media and now are in my email signature. It’s a small step, but it’s the least I can do. And lastly, clear and direct communication, and calling out discrimination and harassment and microaggressions when we see them so that other people don’t have to. Easier said than done, but important.

  90. Ihmmy*

    Caveat: I have a mild preference for they/them but am ok with she/her most days.

    Like many others, I did the email signature thing. Before that, I gave my boss and coworker I share an office with a heads up. After that, if someone referred to me as part of ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ or such a couple times in a week or two I’d go and just approach them solo and be all “hey just a heads up I’m not actually a ‘lady’.”. I work in a relatively forward thinking place – they all mean well but are likelier to assume pronouns than ask, but are happy to adjust when it’s been flagged for them. No one’s been weird about it, other than one person musing what to use instead of mademoiselle (Canadian here, so some French smattered in isn’t unusual)

  91. DarnTheMan*

    My work had this occur last year; one of our long-time staff members transitioned so switched from using he/him pronouns and a more masculine name to she/her pronouns and a more feminine name (think Andy to Andrea). I thought it was handled super well; clearly she’d been in conversation with our HR and her manager so one day we just got an email to all staff from her with the subject line “New Me” with her new name and pronouns and asking that we all refer to her by them going forward. In a particularly cute touch she did a little FAQ to common questions (“I always knew” “I’m doing great, thanks for asking” “I wanted to now because I feel in a good place about it”) and then encouraged anyone who had any (kind, non-invasive) additional questions to please stop her desk and she’d be happy to try and answer them.

    1. DarnTheMan*

      ETA: Forgot to add and not super applicable to the OP’s situation but the other nice touch was we all have nameplates at our desks, as well as display names on our phones and a few staff directories so before ‘Andrea’ even sent the email out, everything that had been using her former name had already been switched by HR and office management to ‘Andrea’ which also did a lot to smooth the transition time too because people at least had visual reminders if they did slip up.

  92. whatchamacallit*

    My boss uses they/them.

    I think we’ve all handled it well. I would recommend adding preferred pronouns to your email signature, and asking new hires/new people you meet what pronouns they prefer. It really normalizes things. If you have coworkers you’re close with, I would ask if they are willing to do the same – I had never had my pronouns in my email signature because I always thought “My identity and what people assume my gender is match up, so it’s unnecessary to clarify” but after I started working at my current job I added mine as kind of a solidarity thing, and most of my other cis coworkers do as well. Seeing it both reinforces my mindset around pronouns and it also doesn’t make the one nonbinary person stand out as the only one with their preferred pronouns listed.

  93. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    From what I’ve observed in my workplaces, it depends on the person! (And the workplace–for the record, these were very queer tech spaces with strong institutional traditions of supporting QUILTBAG folx.)

    Some people sent company-wide emails with long explanations, some people added pronouns to their Slack handles, and some folks would correct in the moment with a quick, “Oh, I used they/them now” and talk to their friendly, trusted company social influencer, with the explicit request to spread the word as need-be. (That was me a couple of times.)

    Thanks for welcoming us in to this aspect of yourself!

  94. Enby in ZA*

    I (nobinary) use (they/them) socially but I am currently based in South Africa, where these issues are incrasingly understood but pronouns in sig files are still mostly confined to activist spaces. I work in a place where I might get away with pushing the issue at work, but I have been hestitant because (1) many/most of my co-workers speak English as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th language and there are already active tensions in the work places about who speaks what languages how well and what langauges are used when, and (2) I am relatively senior in the organisation, white, and an immigrant with a local spouse which adds So. Many. Complex. Layers. (see: intersectionality), and (3) I have a non-apparent disability that I am out about and for which I have workplace accomodations that I know already cause a certain level of gossip and resentment (see again: #2 and intersectionality).

    End result is that I have told a few close colleagues to please stop referring to me under the umbrella of “Ladies” (and similar requests) and otherwise mostly decided to leave it alone in professional spaces. But it doesn’t sit well.

    And at the same time, if I *knew* there were junior colleagues whose path would be eased by my setting a precendent, I would probably find it in me to brazen it out. So some days I wonder if I should just assume those people exist and do it? Other days I know I don’t have the spoons (see:disability) and decide that being out as queer and visibilty gender non-conforming does as much as I can right now.

    Any Saffers out there with experiences to share? Any else working in global health/development spaces in sub-Saharan Africa who have wrestld with this?

  95. February Goshawk*

    My pronouns match my gender assigned at birth, but my workplace has active policies on pronoun use.

    Everyone at my work is expected to put their pronouns in their Slack, email signature, and videoconferencing name fields.

    When the wrong pronoun gets used for someone, that person or someone else can let the speaker know. It’s no more fraught than correcting someone who’s using the wrong name — a quick apology and moving on are fine.

    I realize that may be ideal — changing pronouns at our office is pretty straightforward, and would just involve letting people know and changing yours where they appear. But our office has demonstrated that they can handle it and want to get it right. So it’s possible!

    1. E*

      >Everyone at my work is expected to put their pronouns in their Slack, email signature, and videoconferencing name fields.

      Are candidates told this at interview stage? I consider myself an ally (friend recently started a relationship with a nonbinary person and I am DETERMINED to get it right when I finally meet them) but I would be seriously put out by this requirement.

      1. February Goshawk*

        Yes. Most of our company culture is documented and available to candidates (or even non-candidates).

        We also give our pronouns when interviewing candidates.

        That said, it’s an expectation, not a requirement. I haven’t heard anyone officially decline, but there are a few people who don’t list their pronouns in whatever display, and I’ve never seen or heard of anyone being disciplined for it.

        1. Cold brew fiend*

          This is not something you want to require—some people aren’t comfortable with a public statement of their pronouns (maybe they aren’t out to family, etc.) and this could be dangerous for them (physically or emotionally).

  96. Curmudgeon in California*

    I am in the middle of changing the name I use and my pronouns to they at work.

    Instead of Jane Longname, I’m going by JB Longname, they/them. (fake name is fake)

    Things I’ve done:
    * Changed my preferred name in the internal directory
    * Changed the name I send out my emails under
    * Changed the signature on my emails to include my pronouns
    * Changed my Slack name that appears
    * Changed my Zoom name that appears
    * Started gently correcting people with “I go by JB now” when they use my old name
    * Same with pronouns

    I’ve been working on this for three years, since I don’t want to be “pushy” or “strident” about it. While my workplace has a pretty good D&I program, they put a lot of value on collegiality and “professionalism” (to the point of letting bullies get away with stuff if they are “nice” when they say it.)

    It is starting to take effect – at least on the name front. I don’t know how they refer to me in the third person.

    I still get misgendered other places, but I can cope with that – it’s not a hill to die on for me. While I don’t consider myself female, I understand that old habits are hard to break, and when I have discussions about it with people that’s my approach.

    I still have to deal with gendered attitudes in other ways, but until I can no longer “look” female, I’m gonna be stuck with that. (WFH helps – they only see my face and shoulders, not my chest.)

    1. feministdrk*

      Thanks for sharing your experience. This is really helpful to hear, especially the simple script for correcting people.

  97. Alex Rider*

    This is my first comment after being a lurker for a while so bear with me. I went from he to they pronouns at work about 2 years ago.I felt like it was a smooth transition. I first brought it up with my boss and told her that I was considering using they/ them pronouns because I felt more comfortable with them. My manager mentioned it to our team. At that point there were 10 of us including myself. I actually used the mouse scenario at the recommendation of my therapist. It did take several weeks for a couple of coworkers to pick up on it but I feel like it went pretty well. I did answer several questions from my coworkers and tried to be open about my experience that brought me to this point.

  98. feministdrk*

    I started using she/they last year while I was deciding what felt best for me. I realized that they/them is the best fit. As others have said, I put my pronouns in my email sig (under the block of my name, dept., university). I also change my Zoom name to include they/them to help remind people (spoiler: it doesn’t always work).

    I’ve also personally come out to people at my workplace, including my department. I am super lucky, in that my department is amazing and supportive, and (even though I’m in a pretty conservative rural region) my administration and colleagues are pretty good, too. I only switched to exclusively they/them since the pandemic, so I haven’t gotten into the habit of regularly correcting folks yet (this is something I plan to work up to; I’m hoping I’ll settle on a script I can use).

    I’m also lucky in that I work at a university and in a social science department where my expertise is on sex and gender, so I think people are also just more willing to take this part of me in stride. I’ve also gone super trans masc in my presentation, so I’m hoping that the visual cues will help people remember (ok, not a lot of hope about this, given how ingrained cissexism is :/).

    Building a support network (especially among other queer folks) can be helpful. You might also consider talking to someone in HR (if you trust someone there) to give them a heads-up, so they know you’re coming out. I gave my union president a heads-up, also to set out my expectation that the union would have my back in any potential harassment/discrimination issue (I know it’s not that simple, but figured to be explicit about my expectations).

  99. Ash*

    Those of us who have privilege, let’s use it to advocate for workplace-wide policies about this. At my workplace, we have a staff directory where everyone’s name and pronoun is listed publicly. Names and pronouns can be changed at any time and immediately by our HR department through a simple e-mail, phone, or in-person request. We have also had staff send out all-staff emails informing everyone of name and/or pronoun changes, if they would like. The expectation is that everyone will begin using the new name or pronoun immediately. Slip-ups happen, but it’s important to just apologize and try your damndest not to do it again. No supporting documentation of any kind should be required for a name or pronoun change. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.

    1. GS*

      Those who have privilege, it would be much more reassuring to me if you corrected someone’s pronoun use real-time in front of me than if you forced a public directory of pronouns.

  100. Rhymetime*

    At my nonprofit, we have organizationally been encouraging staff to voluntarily include their pronouns in their signatures for about a year, and now nearly everyone does that. Recently, one of our board members shifted to non-binary and we now address this individual as “they” instead of “he.”

    Our leadership communicated directly with other board members about the change, and our process was to send a note out to all staff who interact with this board member. There is also an alert for the individual’s record in our database, for anyone who pulls up the record and didn’t previously know about the change. When anyone on our staff or on our board internally defaults to calling this individual she, others consistently remind them to make the correction. My sense from the board member is that they know people might slip up occasionally and revert to “he” but that everyone is honoring their request and it’s going well.

  101. barecca*

    Just started doing this! At least more formally. It’s been in my pronoun line in my signature for awhile, but some recent more active steps:

    1. Telling my boss 1:1 that I’ve been using “they” in my personal life, and would like to do so professionally, getting buy-in
    2. On Zoom, adding pronouns next to my name in the display

    Going to start working on step 3, which is step 1 but with other colleagues.

  102. anone*

    It’s really cool that there’s SO many nonbinary folks here to comment on this!! My experience from about four years ago when I decided to be out with my pronouns in a new workplace (so I’d literally just started there, different from transitioning at a place where people already knew me) was that people were supportive but needed a lot of practice.

    It was a non-profit environment with a lot of students on short-term contracts while they were in school, so it came up whenever I introduced myself to someone new. Some of the older folks (the ED in particular) could be very self-conscious about it despite ostensibly being well-meaning and that made it harder for them to remember and be natural about it (I gave up on hand-holding them and just trusted them to find the maturity to cope). The queer staff were the best at it and were AWESOME at modelling how to gently self-correct (which I thanked them for). I also eventually started to let people know that I wouldn’t be able to correct them all the time (it would take up way too much of my time), but that I appreciated when they worked on correcting themselves. And also that they never needed to apologize to me (also would take up way too much time!), just work on gently noticing and catching themselves.

    To help, when I introduced my pronouns to people, I made it light-hearted and also demonstrated the grammar, because a lot of people seemed totally uncertain about how to actually use a they/them pronoun (saying “they is” instead of “they are”, or thinking it replaced my first-person instead of my third-person pronouns, etc.). So I would say things like, “Hi, I’m anone, I use they/them pronouns, which looks like saying, ‘Wow, anone is cool–they have the best socks! I love hanging out with them.'”

  103. some dude*

    Cisdude here. I added pronouns to my work email even though it isn’t policy at our work. I added a pronoun field to our intake form (and 16% of our clients use non-binary pronouns, which seems like a lot). I also have been very intentional about using nonbinary pronouns in a normalized way and not making a big deal about them, and not engaging when people are like, “they? How am I supposed to remember that???” It’s taken me a while to get there though – the first few times I met people with nonbinary pronouns I was very confused because I am old and this is new to me.

  104. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

    I use they/them with friends, but she/her at work. I keep toying with the idea of coming out but I am pretty sure at least a couple coworkers will be weird about it. Our CEO is pro-trans-rights, and handled the transition of a C-suite member really well a couple months back, but he works out of a different office. I’m in a small office with about 20 people total, and there are a couple people I’ve identified who are probably transphobic (and another one who definitely is). Since the two “probably” guys are in management… yeah.

    There are enough really really good things about this gig that I don’t want to take big risks, so I am keeping my head down, at least for now. Especially now that we’re full-time remote, I rarely hear anybody talk about me in the third person, so it’s not too bad.

    1. Night of the Living History*

      I’m in a similar situation as you. Changing my pronouns would mean being the person who has to educate our staff/board/volunteers on gender and (even though I’m the ed. director!) that’s not something I want to do. For me, the discomfort of people using the wrong pronouns is less than the discomfort of being that person, but everyone is different. I can appreicate that it’s a privledge to even be able to chose.

  105. Norman Anja Schmidt*

    I am working as IT expert for a chair in the natural schience faculty at a university in Germany. I am non-binary (and officially have a birth certificate and passport with the third gender option available in Germany) and use “they” pronouns in English, none in German (because no neutral ones for persons are official or even widely known). About one third of the scientists come from abroad, although mostly not from countries with English as first language. Group meetings and talks are mostly in English.
    My experience is that nobody is aware that the “they” pronoun family can be used in singular, even more so as neutral pronoun for persons. Most people never learned about this in English as foreign language (me too, I had 9 years of English in grammar school 30 years ago and took some English courses at university). People usually use “he” when talking about me and sometimes “he or she” when talking about unkown/abstract persons. I try to increse awareness by personally addressing people and explaining, but gender inclusivity awareness is generally low in natural science in Germany (different in social sciences). I am the only person I know stating a pronoun in my e-mail signature, and probably nobody has noticed it yet.
    So from my point of view, the most important thing to do would be to amend the curricula in English as foreign language in all countries, at least to change things in the future.

  106. Gatomon*

    I changed my pronouns from she/her to he/him in combo with a name change, so it may be a little overblown, but after discussing with management we had a team meeting face-to-face and then the CEO sent out an email. This is a conservative area and the company wanted to make clear that any intolerance wasn’t going to be tolerated.

    The name wasn’t hard for folks, there was 1 slipup that I can recall. The pronouns were harder. There was an initial wave of goofs both spoken and written, then a drop off, and then another small uptick a few months later when I think people were starting to think on it less consciously. I never really made an issue over it because I’m terrible at advocating for myself; 99% of the time people self-corrected and apologized. At this point it’s maybe once a year, and usually when my brain flags it, it’s actually in reference to some other person and not me. So just prepare yourself for the goofs.

    I never put my pronouns in my email. Since most of my messages are within the company, it felt unnecessary, but if you communicate outside the company frequently, I’d do it.

  107. Cakezilla*

    At my nonprofit, over the past year or so we have all been encouraged to include our pronouns in our email signature. We’ve begun asking people for their pronouns on all our intake paperwork (and including they/them and a fill in the blank space as options) and have made a conscious effort to ask instead of assuming someone’s pronouns. (Sometimes I get semi-offended comments like “I’m obviously a man!” but then it’s a good opportunity to explain we ask as a way to show respect to everyone.) Our HR department also recently redid our employee handbook and used they/them pronouns as the default. A coworker recently started using they/them pronouns, and while I obviously can’t speak for their experience, it’s been really easy for me to pivot pretty quickly because our org has already really made a point to be affirming (even though the work is of course never done!)

  108. Snarl Trolley*

    I’m not sure how useful it is to seek cis input of “observation” on this – it really muddies the commenting waters a lot. In my experience as a nonbinary and trans person, I’ve never once met a cis person with a real grasp of what trans people go through (which is only to be expected!), and I certainly don’t trust them to make informed observations on a colleague, with how tenuous professional “relationships” often are. I don’t think they can say for sure how a pronoun change for a nonbinary person went, since they….haven’t lived it. They don’t know what small, impactful things to look for, and often miss even the big issues that rise up from it. It’s ultimately just speculation from them, which I don’t feel is helpful for OP or anyone else. I’d love to see this post with voices only from and for those directly *affected*.

  109. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Thanks for the comments!

    I use they pronouns and a different chosen name in most of my life; but being a lawyer, I just know it’s not the right field to rock the boat especially as I am on a federal job contract and the current administration is anti-trans. I know some colleagues who have transitioned and no longer get good opportunities despite strong city and state protections.

  110. George*

    Per AMA’s request, I’m posting as a person who has seen this go not well in the workplace.

    Leaving details of what happened aside because it would make it too easy to identify me. However, I work in an ultra-old-school, male-dominated area (think of areas like law). I can say that where I work there would definitely be a lot of people who would be supportive, but there’s very much a work-first attitude. Lots of people who are NOT relationship oriented, but more task oriented. If you are in an industry/area like this, then I would suggest lots of patience and humor.

    For example, I have a name I go by “Georgina” but my legal name is “Persephone.” The company asked in their sign-on paperwork for the name you go by. Yet, literally everything from my email to my badge to the sign on my door says “Persephone.” This is for something very common that the company is aware enough of to ask. Some people who use their middle name had partial success (maybe their door was ok, but the email wasn’t). This is more problematic in bigger companies – if I put in a request to office services or IT and sign it Gerogina, they reply to Persephone. Every. Single. Time.

    HOWEVER, it isn’t that people don’t care. They are just, 99 times out of 100, focused on the task. And each and (almost) every person would try to get it right. But the organizational changes would be glacial.. and individuals would vary in ability to change (e.g. somebody else commented on those who had grammar drilled into them, people learning English as a second language, etc)

    I know this doesn’t give advice on HOW to do it, but I would seriously consider these sorts of factors (how conservative of a field are you in? how much are people task focused vs relationship focused? how big is the organization?) in terms of how you do it and how many times you are going to have to say the equivalent of my, “Actually, I’m known as Georgina. My friends call me George.”

    Good luck, OP!

  111. Working Hypothesis*

    I was part of an organization which handled an employee changing their pronouns well. I also have a nonbinary adult child who uses their pronouns openly at work. In both cases, it’s gone pretty smoothly, although I note that we’re in a very liberal city whose population averages better educated than many places about gender issues, and this might not go the same way in other places.

    For new workplaces (which aren’t the original question, but still seemed relevant also), my kid makes sure to start off politely and cheerfully on introduction to anyone with, “Hi! Pleased to meet you. I’m X, and my pronouns are they/them. What are yours?” This both gets the information across and normalizes the concept of including pronouns as a standard part of introductions, regardless of the gender identity of the speaker. Some places they’ve done this with have started having other people, including cisgender colleagues, begin to use the same formula for introductions.

    When I had a colleague who changed the pronouns they used while they were working there, they first went to the manager and let him know, “I go by they/them pronouns now, and I’d like to let the rest of the team know that. How would you like me to handle it with clients?” The manager said he supported the employee introducing themself to clients in whatever way they felt most comfortable, and my coworker eventually decided on their own that they would tell their regulars their new pronouns the same way they were going to tell their colleagues, but not bother with clients whom they were never likely to see again on a regular basis. It’s important that *first* my coworker got their boss’ consent to choose for themself how to handle their pronoun change with clients; the decision not to tell all of them might have felt a lot worse if it had been pushed on them from the outside. But it never was.

    After that discussion with the manager, my colleague caught the rest of the team, one at a time or in small groups (which is usually the way they’d be likely to find us at the office), and told us, “I just wanted to let you know that I’m going by they/them pronouns now. If you’ve got any questions about that, I’ll try to answer them; just let me know.” They didn’t have to offer to answer questions, but they chose to, and I think it helped them make sure the air was clear with the few coworkers who weren’t comfortably on board with this from the beginning. So choosing to offer additional information — while drawing their own chosen boundaries about how much information to give! — seemed to help them get more quickly to a position where everybody took their newly announced pronouns for granted and didn’t think about them anymore… which is where they’d wanted to end up in the first place.

    Hope some of this helps! Good luck, OP.

  112. Librarian Ish*

    Woo congrats! I apologize if this is duplicate info, I haven’t read through everything, but this was my experience at a very conservative, religious university, followed by a job change to a liberal state university:

    I never did a big ‘unveil’ – I transitioned while at Conservative U, and I started using ‘they/them’ in my email signature, and talked with a couple trusted coworkers to ask them to correct people. I didn’t actually have to do much to correct people, but I did have to do quite a lot of work to soothe their feelings when they called me ‘she’. I never had to officially come out at Liberal U – they had a culture of introducing their own pronouns, so it was pretty quickly incorporated.

    Overall, folks have been way, way kinder than I expected. I’ve gotten some off-the-wall questions – my favorite is a colleague who asked if it was still ok to say ‘you’, or was that too gendered? And I did once have someone introduce me as “this is Librarian Ish, she uses they/them pronouns” lol.

    Sometimes people made some insensitive comments – comparing me to the solitary other person they knew who used they/them happened a couple times. I’m also pretty sensitive to folks who are like “Oh, pronouns don’t matter, you can call me whatever” – I always want to point out how much privilege that displays, because it’s not bad, but they definitely seem not to understand their privilege.

  113. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    I worked at a place that handled this incredibly poorly for a colleague of mine who identifies as gender nonconforming. They changed their name (just starting using their first initial, instead of using their gendered legal name) and adopted new pronouns.

    Originally, they wanted to change their pronouns to “ae/aem/aer”, which I admit I really struggled with. For context, I’m a cisgender lesbian who works in cultural competency and trains on sensitivity around these issues–I have trans friends and this isn’t the first pronoun transition I’ve encountered in my life–usually I don’t find it hard to switch, with some practice. However, using “nonstandard” pronouns ended up being really challenging for me, as well as for the rest of my coworkers. My coworker was frequently (read: almost every time) misgendered. Additionally, they really presented in a very feminine way (dresses, heels, makeup, etc) so there were also other cues that pointed to pronouns other than their preferred ones.

    They ended up then changing to they/them pronouns, which ended my misgendering of them, but was still a huge challenge from much of the rest of the office. I’m not sure if the switch to they/them was due to the challenges of the original nonstandard pronouns, or if they just felt that “they” was a better fit. I know they went through some gender fluidity where they felt different pronouns fit differently at different times.

    Long story short, my office continued to misgender them, and it was really hard on them, especially as the culture of the company was (ostensibly) very open and progressive and promotes cultural awareness. (We literally made cultural competency training software and taught behavior modification through perspective taking). In the end, they left after one VP and the CEO just consistently misgendered them publicly, and without remorse. It was very upsetting.

    All that said, I really hope that LW’s transition is not at all like my coworker’s experience. I think using a standard pronoun (he/she/they) as opposed to some of the less standard ones (xe/ze/ae/etc) does make it easier for folks to adapt. (Not that that’s why you should pick your pronouns, just talking about the impact). Also I’ve adopted adding my pronouns in my signature. I think it really helps to normalize noting your pronouns, whether you’re cisgender, transgender, or gender nonconforming.

    1. Darcy*

      I’d just like to point out that bringing up their presentation in the context of people misgendering them sounds a bit like you are putting some of the blame for people misgendering them onto the person being misgendered, which I’m sure isn’t your intent!

      1. Theo*

        This story also comes off very “make sure you pick an easy pronoun set or you’ll just get misgendered”, despite the last paragraph. You had a chance to step up here, learn the pronouns on your own time (if you learned specific language for you job, you can learn some pronouns), and be an advocate. It sounds like instead you just focused on how hard this way for you, not how brutal it was for your colleague.

  114. LizardOfOdds*

    Someone on my team uses they/them pronouns and they made the change in a way that felt seamless and natural. Here’s what they did and how they said it:
    – Low-key announcement in a team meeting. “I just wanted to let you know that I use they/them pronouns now. I know it’s a change and it will probably take a bit for you to get used to it, but thanks in advance for trying to remember!” (they did not announce to the whole company or other teams or anything)
    – When someone asked what they should do if they use the old pronouns accidentally: “I know everyone will forget sometimes, and you don’t need to apologize – I’ll just remind you!”
    – When someone asked what to do if they hear someone use incorrect pronouns and they aren’t there to correct the person: “I’d love it if you could support me by reminding the person that I use they/them pronouns.”
    – When someone DOES forget: “oh, I use they/them pronouns.” (in a friendly and matter-of-fact tone)
    – When someone apologizes for forgetting: “no need to apologize! I just ask that you try to remember next time.”
    – When doing introductions with someone for the first time: “Hi! I’m ____, and I use they/them pronouns. I’m a (job title) on the (team) team. What about you?”

    They also added their preferred pronouns to their email signature, their name on our video conference system, their LinkedIn page, their internal phone book page, and everywhere else where they were able to in our internal systems. This has helped people remember because there’s consistency everywhere their name appears.

  115. Psykins*

    I changed to they/them pronouns at work about a year ago. I started doing it when I was part of a group that pushed to have our department encourage pronouns in signatures. (I work at a university so things are often department-by-department. Also it is a religious school and not great on LGBTQ+ rights) I never made any announcements – just started including them on my email signature and have introduced myself with my pronouns in small groups. I am a bit of a chicken and don’t like to correct people on my pronouns AT ALL so I never mention it. And people get it wrong a lot. But some also try. So it hasn’t been an amazing success but it hasn’t been a hostile environment because of it or anything.

    I am still WAY to chicken to ask to use my preferred nickname. It is more associated with a gender not my own and pretty uncommon, not to mention not really a nickname for my legal name. But I don’t want to change my legal name. But maybe I do want to change my last name. SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT that I get overwhelmed and have just avoided the issue….

  116. AJ Voraman*

    In 2019, I updated my pronouns to they/them when our guidance on standardizing signatures had an explicit place for pronouns that was optional. I also announced it in our workspace in my weekly status update.

    Some people struggled. My then-manager grew up in the Dakotas and could not internalize singular they, even when presented with the example that if someone leaves their headset in a focus room, if you can’t figure out who they are, you can ask around and if you still can’t find them, you can put the headset in lost and found.

    Other people were and are awesome. A year later, there are some who still slip up, (usually followed by an apologetic email … I’m sorry I misgendered you in the email you were included on …). It’s the people who I work more closely with who consistently get it right. New people to the team struggle at first, though usually that’s a temporary thing. Part of the issue is new people working with people from other teams who are not consistent. My status on our workspace is my pronouns, so the misgendering tends to happen in meetings or emails, where the reminder is not attached to my last post.

  117. Zazu*

    I have a co-worker who uses they/them and they have their pronouns in their email signature (I do, too), but then below that they have a hyperlink titled “What does this mean?” that leads to this page:

    If your company has some money/resources, and/or an LGBTQ employee resource group, I’d recommend asking them to bring in someone to do some kind of presentation so you don’t end up having to be the “teacher”. Ours had Dr. Stockwell from Upswing Advocates do a talk and it was really well attended and well received. I’m very queer and have plenty of non-binary friends and still felt like I learned something.

  118. Granath*

    “Listening mode” – ie, your opinion isn’t needed. I’m sure you’d say the same thing if we were talking about a non-minority group. “Sorry Jewish people, your opinion about Christmas holidays isn’t relevant”

    Bigotry is bigotry, no matter who it happens to. Shame on you for propagating it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s astoundingly ignorant. The voices of people with marginalized identities are often drowned out, and the point is to provide space where that’s not happening. I’ve done this many times when the topic is an issue faced by non-dominant groups and exactly never when it’s the reverse. Educate yourself on marginalization, please.

  119. Chelsea*

    I work in a workplace that handles this sort of thing very well. I personally have never had to change my pronouns at work.

    The biggest thing that helps at my current workplace is asking others to also put their pronouns in their email signature – it seems like such a small thing, but it helps reinforce it when they see your pronoun next to your name. I have a coworker who wears a they/them pin on their outfit, and I guess when people were getting used to it, they tapped the pin when they caught somebody miss-gendering them, which helped a lot. I don’t have to guess anyone’s pronouns, since when I accepted the job, my manager sent out a welcome email that literally everyone responded to, so I saw everyone’s pronouns before I had even met most of them. Coupled with taking a moment to look up my new coworkers on linked in to get a photo, I already had a good understanding of how not to step on toes. My manager did check on my pronouns and what details I would like shared prior to sending the email, which was also nice.

    I’ve definitely seen workplaces try to be woke and make it really uncomfortable – Things like emails specifically encouraging people to share their pronouns without providing any kind of natural way to do it. Also, everyone who read that email was still left to assume the sender’s gender.

    Really, my main advice to workplaces is to make sure that sharing pronouns is the norm early on, and also make sure that you are encouraging people to correct you about their identity. If you can’t be bothered to say their name right, most non binary people I know are going to assume that you aren’t going to get their pronouns right, and aren’t even going to try. Start with names. Get in the habit of saying “Am I saying that right?” or “I just wanted to check that you go by…” (that second one especially if you pick up other people calling them something. Like… my name is Chelsea, not Chels, and I do not appreciate being called Chels, but people do it all the time. It means the world when somebody actually asks me and I say “actually no” and they stop)

  120. Alec*

    Hey! I use they/them pronouns and transitioned while working for a supportive company in a queer friendly city. I think it very much depends on the context you live in as to what kind of response you get. My team were totally on board and I was not the only trans, nor even the only nb person in the office.

    Now, however, I live more rurally and despite working in mental health it is still a very different environment. Despite my employers and colleagues knowing I am queer and trans I opted to use Male pronouns (which I do not mind) since it protects me from potentially small minds here in farming country.

    Whatever you decide, you are valid. I hope that even if coming out / using they pronouns more widely isn’t possible that you are able to find safe spaces and people around whom you can be yourself.

  121. Igorette*

    I may be too late for this party, but I wanted to share my experience with they/them pronounce at work. I noticed a colleague had put “they/them” in their email signature. For reference, they have a neutral name. So, I immediately made the effort to only use their preferred pronounce. Interestingly, I noticed others stressing “she” in a helpful sounding way. As in, perhaps I didn’t know their gender, and they wanted to give me a clue. I decided, that I was going to speak up against it and correct anyone using the wrong pronouns. Of course, our finance manager is the next person to say “she”… I really want to share that I said some epic one liners worthy of applause, but honestly, I gave such a quick and rambling explanation that I am surprised he understood me at all. He is a wonderful manager. He just said “okay, thanks” and immediately started correcting himself.

    So! I felt really nervous correcting someone else, especially in a senior position. But I am glad I did it. Reasonable people want to get this right, so it is not a problem to make them aware. Also, we should all support our colleagues. Not only by using the preferred pronouns, but also helping those who use them incorrectly to get it right

    1. Safety Steve*

      In those situations I usually just offer a quick “oh i think so&so goes by they” and move along. Some people want to be more lowkey about their change in pronouns so I try to just stick to a quick reminder. Plus people tend to be less defensive or feel bad about it— it’s more like cheerfully saying “it’s actually Anna, not Hanna” than getting into a larger conversation.

  122. Darcy*

    I started using they/them pronouns at a fairly traditional software company. I spoke to my manager and the owner of the company (only about 30 people worked there so everyone knew each other) and told them I was changing my name and pronouns and that I wanted to send an email to everyone at the company announcing it. I put the email subject line as something like “exciting news” and wrote an email along the lines of “I’ve been thinking about this for a while and at the weekend I finally changed my name! Please call me Darcy from now on and use they/them instead of she/her. If you forget I’ll remind you, please don’t feel like you need to make a big deal of apologising if you do – I know none of you would get it wrong on purpose. I’m sure it will take a little while to adjust but I’m excited to take this step. Thanks for all your support! ”

    I wanted to frame it as something exciting that they’ll *of course* be on board with, and telling them that *of course* none of them would misgender me on purpose but that I know they’ll need reminding a few times was an attempt to fend off uncomfortable over-apologising when someone did get it wrong.

    When I did need to correct someone I’d say “oh! they!” in a sort of “whoops!” tone, the same as if someone asked me how my holiday to France was when actually I’d been to Spain.

    (internally it’s much more upsetting to correct people on my pronouns than on where I went on holiday, but I find that tone of voice leads to the shortest possible conversation about it)

  123. Safety Steve*

    My coworker (and cousin) came out last year & while his actual coming out process was a bit awkward, it was pretty easy for us to shift over at work. Even the relatively conservative owner made the effort, though she slipped up more often than most of us. I think the biggest thing was him having conversations with people who he knew were going to be cool about it first so that he at least had a base of support at work if the larger ‘institution’ responded badly. And then a lot of the pronoun transition at work was just people slipping up w name or pronouns and other people gently reminding them or them going ‘i mean he’ and moving on. Part of it was also that our manager really makes an effort to educate herself, she’s no gender theorist or anything but she was willing to say ‘his gender does not hurt you or anyone else and it costs you very little to respect his name/pronouns.’ so even if people were weird about it internally they kept it to themselves. Good luck!!

    1. Safety Steve*

      Also part of this was that a few of us (me included) were openly queer so I think the atmosphere was already there to where he could be optimistic about the response at work.

  124. JellyBean*

    A friend of mine had a co-worker transition recently. The co-worker took a leave from work during the transition and before returning, the boss held a meeting with the whole team. He said “X transitioned over the break and now goes by Laura. Laura will be presenting as female full-time and will use she/her pronouns.” It was basically just a heads up to the team and everyone was cool with it. They started using the new name and pronouns when Laura returned to the office, but otherwise the working relationships and team socializing stayed the same.

  125. FischUndFahrrhad*

    I’ve worked in two offices where people have changed pronouns, one that handled it with grace and one that … well, hasn’t gotten it quite right yet.

    In my old office, one of my colleagues switched from he/him to she/her. In this case, the switch was accompanied by a name change and tied to time away from work for gender reassignment surgery. Before her leave, my colleague sent a lovely email to all of her usual collaborators to explain who would be covering while she was out, and to note in passing that there would be some noticeable changes upon her return. During her time away, several people on her team helped to ensure that newly on boarded employees (or those who may have missed the announcement for other reasons) were aware of the correct name and pronouns, and helped to smooth the path for her return. HR worked to change all of her corporate materials (directory listing, references on websites, email signature, badge photo, etc) before her return or immediately thereafter.

    At my current office, we have two employees who use they pronouns, one who used he/him when hired and the second who has used “they/them” throughout their tenure. In both cases, their bosses forget and revert to either he/him or she/her regularly. We don’t have control of our email signatures to make changes, such as adding pronouns, and HR hasn’t been proactive about getting it done. I only learned about their preferences because one of them told me directly several months in, and the other I discovered while making a LinkedIn request where pronouns were specified. Essentially, everything falls to the employee, management isn’t outright hostile but hasn’t provided basic support, and it creates awkwardness and discomfort for everyone (but especially those who just want people to use simple pronouns correctly).

  126. Theydies & Gentlemen*

    LW, I’m glad you asked, because I wanted to ask the same question 4 months ago. This is the evolution of my process:

    I tried dressing more androgynously at work last summer – I’m AFAB, and would alternate dresses with menswear during the week. I was complimented for being “dressy”.

    I came out at work as non-binary to half of my team in January, including my boss. I asked them to start using they/them, hoping that others would pick it up. That did not happen. Wearing a they/them pin did nothing.

    I came out to my team as a whole in April, and everyone was supportive. We decided to add our pronouns to our email signatures, include pronouns in meetings with new people / outside of our team, and they said they would correct each other. Only the email signatures happened. If I were to correct people, it would bring meetings to a grinding halt of “oh I’m so sorry please forgive me”s, so I stopped.

    HR has been supportive, including meeting with me to see about writing policy and adding additional gender options to ADP fields. I’m the first out non-binary person, so I know I’m breaking ground here.

    I really wish I wasn’t. I mostly regret coming out / changing pronouns at work, because it hurts more now. Our team is getting compliments and recognition internally for inclusiveness because of our email signatures, but only one coworker reliably uses my pronouns. I don’t want to discourage you – being out means so much to me, but I don’t see a lot of enby conversation about what it’s like to be constantly misgendered after coming out, and the exhaustion that comes with it, even if you’re “supported”.

  127. Kristin*

    “Hi folks, I now use the pronouns “they/there/them”. You use them the same was as she/her/hers or he/him/his. If understand people can slip up when they use the wrong one, so I’ll correct you and move on.”

    If anyone asks for creepy/inappropriate information tell them it’s private. If they are demeaning/rude/insistent you tell them private info, report them to HR/equivalent.

    This day in age it really shouldn’t be too difficult for people unless you work in a religious area or extremely conservative environment. If you’re comfortable education people on it, find a website that explains it simply (infographics always help!) and tell people who are confuse or don’t understand that you’ll email them the link.

    Most people I know who changed to they/them pronouns have had a relatively easy transition at work – but it really depends where you are. I don’t use they/them on a regular basis so I haven’t changed me pronouns at work, but I have with certain people I can trust.

  128. Robin*

    Late to the party, but I’m a they with pronoun experience in two workplaces. I switched from my legal name to my chosen name along with the pronouns at my first example (retail, bookstore in a major city, displays dept). I was not the first they, nor the most visible, and my coworkers were educated + practiced. Got a new nametag, management was already rolling out pronoun tags, and the switch was nearly seamless. One supervisor had a hard time remembering, but my coworkers corrected them whether I was present or not.

    My second example is also a covid success story. The bookstore was closed so I applied for a job with an environmental nonprofit. In my zoom interview, I signed in as my chosen name. The interviewer saw, confirmed I was the correct person, then easily switched to addressing me by my chosen. During a trial shift, she asked my pronouns and “they”d me accordingly going forward. When she sent the offer letter, she had changed her email signature to include her pronouns!

  129. SleepyHollowGirl*

    I was the sort-of lead for someone who changed their pronouns and their first name. They told me in a 1:1 meeting (at the end, almost as if they were afraid to bring it up) they wanted new name and pronouns, I presume they told the other leads on the on team, and then included that item in an email or as part of the team meeting. And then, we all worked on getting it right.

    There was no drama about it at all that I saw. People didn’t get it right initially, but it was all honest mistakes. If I had seen someone using the old name as a political statement, I would have told them off, and I suspect the other leads would have too, but that never happened.

  130. SK*

    I announced my name/pronoun change in a Thursday meeting that included some of my bosses and most of the people I work with on a regular basis. I happened to have the Friday following the meeting booked off, just as a random long weekend. I’m not even 100% sure who took the lead on this, but I could guess – by the time Monday came around, almost everyone in my department seemed to have gotten the memo and was using the new name, which I really appreciated.

    My coworkers are pretty great so I didn’t even ask them to do this, but if you’re less sure yours will naturally take the initiative, I’d recommend this set-up as an intentional strategy: announce publicly or privately to key people, update your email signature with new name and pronouns (and address if possible) before you go, get a couple allies on board to circulate to your wider department/field questions for you while you take a day or two off if you can. This is probably a little trickier if you’re working remotely, but the word of mouth circulating around the office while I was gone meant I didn’t really have to field any questions that, while they probably would’ve been well-meaning, likely would’ve made me feel uncomfortable at a time when I was feeling especially vulnerable.

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