Pronoun Policy FAQDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion
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Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone has the right to be addressed and referred to by pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, including the use of non-binary pronouns (e.g., they/them). This policy provides students and employees the option to indicate their Pronouns in the University’s information systems. MCPHS acknowledges that Pronouns must be used wherever possible, and as such, Pronouns will be displayed in systems that allow for that form of identification. However, some MCPHS systems may not display an individual’s Pronouns due to design limitations.
A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or a noun phrase to refer to individuals. Pronouns can be in the first person singular (I, me) or plural (we, us); second person singular or plural (you); and the third person singular (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/hir) or plural (they/them). We use pronouns to understand how someone identifies, and not make assumptions based on appearance.
Students and employees have more opportunities to encounter a wider range of gender identities and expressions in academic, professional, and social settings. Providing an opportunity to use pronouns and consistently using them correctly, is one of the most basic ways to show our respect for folks’ gender identity.
You can't always know someone’s personal pronouns by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone's personal pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to using the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of the above.)
It is important to ask for pronouns because you cannot assume how someone identifies their gender based on their appearance. Using the wrong pronouns for someone may make them feel disrespected, invalidated, and marginalized.
MCPHS members can ask their colleagues, students, classmates, and peers about their names and pronouns in a respectful way. For example:
- When welcoming new employees, students, or guests to a meeting, class, etc., you can say, “Hello, my name is [insert name], and my pronouns are [insert pronouns]. Please introduce yourselves by sharing your name and pronouns if you are comfortable doing so.”
- When introducing yourself, you can say, “Hi my name is [insert name], and my pronouns are [insert pronouns]. May I ask what your pronouns are if you use them?”
When determining whether, when, and how to ask about pronouns, consider the following strategies:
- share your name and pronouns first;
- ask at the time of onboarding a new employee, during introductions at a meeting, or during class introductions;
- ask everyone in the group the same questions (e.g., as described above), rather than only asking those individuals whose pronouns you have a question about;
- do not limit an individual’s choice of pronouns or require an individual to share their pronouns.
Remember, do not assume that someone who does not indicate their pronouns in the system goes by she/her or he/him. Ask if you do not know someone’s pronouns and do not assume what pronouns someone uses for themselves based on their appearance.
Asking for pronouns may feel awkward initially, but getting someone’s pronouns wrong may be even more awkward.
Respect the wishes of the person who is sharing their personal information. If the individual expresses that they want the information to remain confidential, do not share it with others. If you are unsure or have reason to believe that the individual sharing the information prefers that it remain confidential (e.g., in a situation where the person’s name, gender identity, or pronouns differ from those they used previously), ask them to clarify whether the information may be shared.
In addition to asking someone, strive to avoid gendered language (sir/ma’am, Mr./Ms., ladies/gentleman, etc.) if you do not know how someone or a group identifies. For example, instead of “Hey guys or ladies,” use Hello everyone. Instead of “Thank you, Sir or Ma’am,” just say thank you. Instead of using a gender description like “the man over there,” use clothing as the descriptor, “the person in the blue suit.” Finally, when you are uncertain, use they as the default pronoun.
If you use the wrong pronoun for someone, you can say something like, “Sorry, I meant 'they,'” and continue your conversation. Avoid over-apologizing, which further creates an awkward situation.
In most cases, you may gently correct the person who made the mistake without further embarrassing the individual who was misgendered. You can say something like, “Actually, Danny uses ‘they’ for themselves.”
Faculty, staff, and students can affix personal pronouns to the various means by which they communicate if they so prefer. Several areas where faculty, staff, and students may wish to display personal pronouns include their video conferencing platforms (e.g., MS Teams, Zoom) as well as their email signature line. Follow the instructions below. Please indicate what preferred pronouns you would like to have displayed on your email. For formatting consistency, the University will use subject/object/possessive pronoun.
If you are a student, proceed to Self-Service and update your User Profile. Students who are also employees should also follow the instructions for employees. If you are an Employee, proceed to the Payroll website to obtain instructions on how to make the change in ADP WorkforceNow. Please know that employees have the ability to update ADP; however, the list to select from is limited. Furthermore, the designation in ADP does not transfer to any other systems. Submit a ticket to the Help Desk to add your chosen Pronouns to your Email Signature, Website Directory, Zoom, Student Success Hub, and Blackboard.
You are encouraged to talk with your supervisor, dean, chair, advisor, department head, human resources, or student services representatives about your needed support. If your concerns are not resolved, please contact the MCPHS’s Title IX Coordinator.
MCPHS recognizes that some of the expectations set forth in the policy are new concepts that will require education and learning, and that misuse of pronouns is often unintentional and not malicious. Apologize and continue to make efforts to learn and treat your colleague/peer respectfully, including by using the correct pronouns. There are many valuable online resources to learn about pronoun usage, and mypronouns.org is a helpful start.
Unintentional and occasional misuse of a pronoun will not constitute discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression and will not result in discipline. However, malicious or repeated misuse of pronouns could, depending on the circumstances, constitute discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression in violation of MCPHS Protection from Discrimination and Harassment and the MCPHS Protection from Sexual Harassment policies. Violations may occur when conduct based on gender identity or expression: (1) is unwelcome; (2) is severe, persistent, pervasive, and objective offensive; and (3) unreasonably interferes with an individual’s employment or educational performance or creates a work or educational environment that the individual finds, and that a reasonable person would find, to be intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Violations of MCPHS Protection from Discrimination and Harassment and the MCPHS Protection from Sexual Harassment policies could result in discipline.
Nothing in this policy is designed to, nor will be interpreted to, interfere with principles of academic freedom or free speech. The goal of the policy is to educate and inspire our community members to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.
Use of restrooms and locker rooms is for legitimate reasons. Misuse of restrooms or locker rooms could violate University policies, including the MCPHS Protection from Discrimination and Harassment and the MCPHS Protection from Sexual Harassment policies, and result in discipline. If you have witnessed or experienced misconduct in the restroom or locker room, please report the misconduct to the MCPHS Human Resources, Student Services, or the Title IX Coordinator.
Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.
Gender nonconforming refers to people who do not follow other people's ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gendered pronouns specifically reference someone’s gender: he/him/his or she/her/hers. Non-gendered or nonbinary pronouns are not gender specific and are often used by people who identify outside of a gender binary. The most common set of nonbinary pronouns is they/them/their used in the singular. Other nonbinary pronouns include ze (pronounced “zee”) in place of she/he, and zir (pronounced “zer”) in place of his/him/her.
Yes. For various reasons, individuals may prefer to refer to another person by their specified name, rather than by their specified pronouns. This is an example of a way to respect and accommodate different perspectives consistent with the University’s values of free speech and academic freedom.
Representatives from Student Services, Human Resources, or the Office of Inclusion are available to provide additional information, support, and guidance.
Resources on How to Use, Ask, and Share Pronouns
- “Resources on Personal Pronouns”: www.mypronouns.org
- “Practice with Pronouns”: www.practicewithpronouns.com
- Pronouny: Share Your Personal Pronouns and Stay Updated on Your Friends' Pronouns: pronouny.xyz
- American Psychological Association Pronoun Fact Sheet [PDF]
- Oliver L. Haimson and Lee Airton article, “Making space for them, her, him, and ‘prefer not to disclose’ in group settings: Why pronoun-sharing is important but must remain optional”
- KC Clements article, “What Does It Mean to Misgender Someone?”
- AC Dumlao article, “100 Ways to Make the World Better for Non-Binary People”
Updating legal documents in Massachusetts
Transgender and Non-Binary 101