Using Inclusive Language

Mercy Housing is committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.  We strive to continue building a culture of respect and to not pass unfair, uninvited, or unkind assumptions internally or externally.  As Pride Month comes to a close we hope the following information will assist your communication. Learning to use preferred-gender pronouns and gender-neutral pronouns promotes mutual respect and understanding.

Gender refers to traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual as either feminine or masculine.  Gender neutral means a gender is not assigned or assumed.  Gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, and their) are appropriate when you are unclear as to what the best option may be, or you have been requested to use these pronouns specifically.

Regardless of a person’s sex assigned at birth, a person may identify as a woman, a man, both, neither, or they may be gender fluid. We cannot assume someone’s pronouns by the way they look, dress, or act — even when we know, or ‘think’ we know, their gender identity.

Examples of gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns:

Gender-Specific Pronouns:

  • she/her/hers

Meet Chris:  She is a dog owner.  The dog loves playing catch with her.  The dog is hers.

  • he/him/his

Meet Pat: He is a student.  Schoolwork is interesting to him.  English is his favorite subject.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns

  • they/them/theirs

Meet Kennedy:  They are a Maintenance Technician.  Being a Maintenance Technician is important to them.  Safety is a specialty of theirs.

Note: Additional pronouns individuals may use, which do not identify gender are ‘ze,’ ‘zie,’ or ‘xe.’ 

How can you learn a person’s pronoun preference?

Sometimes it’s easy because the individual tells you during an introduction or writes the pronoun on a nametag or includes it on a profile.  Other times you don’t know someone’s preferred pronouns by looking at them.  Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is a common way to show respect for their gender identity.

  1. You can start a conversation about pronouns by sharing your own:

‘Hello, I’m Pat. My pronouns are he/him.’

  1. Ask for their name and ‘what pronouns do you use?’
  2. Don’t make assumptions about the pronouns a person uses.