The lowdown on pronouns

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Pronoun Lowdown workshop facilitators Miharo director Pauline Smith (left), and Ari Edgecombe and Bethany Duffill-Brookes from CHROMA.

HE, she, zie, zim or zir… that is the question.

The workshop Pronoun Lowdown is being held this month to help people understand the evolution of our personal pronoun language and how to use it appropriately.

Initiated by Miharo, director Pauline Smith said her team had been “talking about how people address others with pronouns (such as he or she)”… and how people were not familiar with the broader gender or gender-neutral definitions.

“We discussed the importance of diversity and asked how could we understand it better,” she said.

From those discussions, the idea of the workshop was born and Ari Edgecombe was approached about Chroma Initiative for LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex people) co-hosting the workshop.

The Pronoun Lowdown workshop would be held on Saturday, August 29, from 11am to 2pm.

Ari and Chroma secretary Bethany Duffill-Brookes said the workshop was to help people understand why personal pronouns mattered and how to understand and respect them.

“A pronoun is simply how we refer to someone if we are not using their name,” Ari said.

Sometimes people were confused about how to use pronouns when meeting others, and at times referred to others or themselves as “they”, Beth said.

“Acknowledging a person’s personal pronoun is how we show respect for the individual and their community,” Ari said.

“The workshop is about introducing some easy, critical thinking around societal norms and stereotypes, learning about personal pronouns and how to understand, engage and respect their use.

“Many of us are familiar with gender-based pronouns such as she and he. What about gender neutral pronouns such as zie (he/she), zim (him/her), zir (his/her)?

“This can be a simple, yet profound step towards creating inclusive environments, as minds, hearts and doors open when we hear ourselves reflected in language.”

Beth said it was about going beyond the gender stereotypes of male and female and learning about non-binary (a person who does not identify as a man or a woman, or solely as one of those two genders) terms.

“There has been so much change in society… and we know there are so many pronouns out there.”

Part of the workshop would focus on how to ask people which pronoun they would prefer to be called by, and by doing so, show “respect and give a feeling of inclusion”, Beth said.

Ari said the workshop would be “an easy introductory level about opening doors and engaging with people”.

“There will be fun exercises… it will include an introduction about gender-based stereotypes, non-gender-based terms… and people will be able to walk away with good tools.”

Depending on the interest and numbers at this month’s workshop, there may be future workshops.

  • Everyone was welcome. However, due to limited space, it was essential to RSVP to pauline@miharo.org by August 22.
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