What the heck is PGP?

What the heck is a PGP?

Pronouns are everywhere. We use them every day in speech and in writing to take the place of people’s names. We use them without even thinking about it, but have you ever tried speaking without using any pronouns? Give it a try. Whoops, I meant to say “Give speaking without using any pronouns a try.” It’s not easy, is it?

Pronouns may not seem like that big a deal, but they become a bigger deal when you try to live without them. And for some people, pronouns are a big deal because other folks don’t always use the correct pronouns to describe them. A preferred gender pronoun, or PGP, is simply the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual.

In English, the singular pronouns that we use most frequently are: I, you, she, her, he, him, and it. “I,” “you” and “it” are what we call “gender neutral” or “all gender”, but “she,” “her,” “he” and “him” are gendered. This can create an issue for transgender and gender nonconforming people, because others may not use the pronouns they prefer when speaking to them or about them.

One way to make sure that your GSA or club is being inclusive and welcoming for transgender or other gender nonconforming people is to incorporate PGPs into your regular intro activities. If you start every meeting by having those present share their names, ask them to share their PGPs as well. For example: “My name is Jasmine, I’m a sophomore, and my PGPs are ‘she’ and ‘her.’” “Hi, I’m Diego. I’m 17, a senior, and my preferred gender pronouns are ‘he,’ ‘him’, and ‘his.’”

Some people prefer that you use gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns when talking to or about them. In English, the most commonly used singular gender neutral pronouns are ze (sometimes spelled zie) and hir. “Ze” is the subject pronoun and is pronounced /zee/, and “hir” is the object and possessive pronoun and is pronounced /heer/. This is how they are used: “Chris is the tallest person in class, and ze is also the fastest runner.” “Tanzen is going to Hawaii over break with hir parents. I’m so jealous of hir.”

Remember: Just like sexual orientation, a person’s gender identity can be a very personal and private thing. GSA members (or anyone, for that matter) should never feel pressured to share how they identify. If someone does choose to share, that’s great, and that information should remain confidential within the GSA unless that person has specifically said that it’s OK to talk about elsewhere.

We should also remember that the idea of PGPs and gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns will be a new concept to a lot of folks, and that mistakes will happen. The activities on the next page will help you gain more practice using gender neutral pronouns and PGPs.

Note on updated language: This resource was updated in 2012 to reflect the growing movement to share one’s PGPs by simply listing them rather than saying “my PGPs are male” or “my PGPs are feminine,” recognizing that we can’t necessarily infer one’s PGPs simply by hearing them described as “male” or “feminine.” Could a person identify as female and also prefer he/him/his? Sure!

Additionally, more and more people are simply saying “my pronouns are...” rather than “my preferred gender pronouns are...,” as the word “preferred” might make it sound like it is optional for someone to use those pronouns.

____is an activist. I am proud of ____.

That is ___ book. -or-

That book is___.

That person likes ____.
She her her/hers herself
He him his himself
Ze* hir hir/hirs hirself
Ze* zir zir/zirs zirhelf
E or Ey em eir/eirs eirself or emself
Per per per/pers Perself
Hu hum hus/hus Humself
They (are)** them  their/theirs Themselves
Name Name Name's/Name's Name

*Additional alternate spellings for “ze” are “zie,” “sie,” “xie” and “xe.”

**When using “they” as a singular gender inclusive pronoun, you would still conjugate associated verbs as you would for the plural version, as in “they are an activist” or “they like to go shopping,” not “they is an activist” or “they likes to go shopping.”

Created by the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools and adapted in part from Part 7 of the GLSEN Jump-Start Guide “Where’s the ‘T’ in GSA? Making Your Student Club Trans-Inclusive.”