Hey there, Snickerdoodles. In celebration of Pride Month this June, I wanted to offer some guidance on how we can make the world a bit kinder, beginning with using the correct pronouns of the folks we work with.
What are your pronouns? My name is Holly, and my pronouns are she/her.
Preferred pronouns meaning
Let’s start with some basics first – what are some pronouns that make up this list:
Feminine: She, her, hers
Masculine: He, him, his
Gender Neutral: They, them, their
Gender Neutral: Ze, zir, zirs
Gender Neutral: Ze, hir, hirs
Anyone you meet could prefer to go by any of these pronouns and the basic rule is only that it is someone’s choice, whether they are transgender, cisgender or gender nonconforming.
As we start to navigate this more encompassing way of speaking about ourselves and others, we will make mistakes – pronouns pop out of our mouths without much thought and that might mean you may use the wrong pronoun for someone. That’s okay and do you know why that’s okay? Because we are human and we make mistakes.
What isn’t okay is to not make an effort to get it correct the next time around. It can be as simple as, “Hey, I’m sorry, I misspoke, I’ll try to get it right next time.”
Practice saying that – I know I have. Sometimes we let our fear of making a mistake or getting something wrong stop us from doing what we know we should do. Get comfortable with knowing that you can always do better.
How to ask someone their preferred pronouns
Now let’s move on to the nitty-gritty. Is it our place, as someone’s potential or actual Dietitian AND is it professional – to ask for someone’s preferred pronoun? The answer, for me, is yes but how we go about it can be both simple and complicated. Here are my thoughts:
First off, I plan on sharing my preferred pronoun and doing so in several ways: on my website (in my introduction) and on any social media outlets that allow me to do so. Also, when meeting with a client for the first time, I plan on using this basic outline:
“Hi, I’m Holly, it’s so nice to finally meet you in person/on video/over the phone. I go by she/her – feel free to share your preferred pronoun with me, if you would like!”
Will it flow like that each time? Maybe yes or maybe no but like anything else, it’ll get easier with practice. My clients are all Dietitians so my desire to be inclusive is just that. However, for many of you, who will be providing nutrition therapy for your clients, there is an even bigger incentive (and also maybe an easier way) to ask.
Some electronic medical records have adapted to include preferred gender pronouns in their forms. This provides us with a pretty easy way to ask since it is part of the fact-finding mission of a first meeting with a client.
My only advice is to always let them know it is entirely up to them whether to share or not. We are being inclusive but want to steer clear of being too forceful or asking someone to share something they aren’t ready to share yet!
Quick tip: drop the -ed
As we’re chatting about this, make note: the correct term is “transgender”, not “transgendered” with the -ed on the end.
Secondly, transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun (1). “Sally is a transgender” is a incorrect, while “Sally is a transgender woman” is correct.
Why use preferred pronouns?
We’ve covered how to ask for preferred pronouns, now let’s take a sec and chat about why we should use preferred pronouns. It is important that we begin our relationships with our clients in this more inclusive way – for several reasons.
We all know how personal food and our relationship with food can be. In order for our clients to trust us with providing nutrition counseling, they need to feel comfortable and they need to feel heard.
By adding the space for a preferred pronoun, we allow our clients to feel supported by us right away. It also opens up the dialogue for more conversations which can be beneficial for how we decide to treat our clients.
At the end of the day – why wouldn’t we use a client’s preferred pronoun? It is such an easy and simple way to infuse compassion and support for others into our practice, to let our people know that we see them and that we hear them.
Are they really “preferred?” Nope.
They are actually just “pronouns.”
Language is an interesting thing. As a copywriter for dietitians, I craft language that channels their authentic voice to speak directly to their ideal clients.
Language can be inclusive or exclusive, sometimes without even meaning it. My recommendation is to not say “preferred.” Pronouns match who they are as a person, not their preference of who they are. See the difference?
And as a fellow dietitian, I am sure you can relate to being called a “nutritionalist”, “dietary” and “food police”, terms that do NOT match my professional identity and quickly get me steamed up. It matters what we are called and how we refer to others.
For me, it is important that I include my pronouns because I want my clients to know that I am open to talking about it. And I want them to know that I will make every effort to refer to them, as they would like to be referred to – it is an easy way I can provide support for someone before even meeting them and that makes me feel good.
What if I’m cisgender?
Great! The responsibility to take action to be more inclusive falls on all of us. I am taking the following steps to be more inclusive in my own business and would suggest you take the following actions, too. Normalizing talking about pronouns paves the way for a safer, inclusive society.
Greeting a group
I recommend using gender-neutral terms when greeting a group of people. Team, friends, y’all, folks, party people and family are all great options.
My preference is Snickerdoodles. My favorite cookie and a delightful greeting.
How to put pronouns in your email signature
There are several different ways to go about adding your pronoun to your email signature. My favorite looks like this:
Holly Larson, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Copywriter
Pronouns on Zoom
We’re meeting more and more often on Zoom. Please take a moment to edit your Zoom profile. There is a spot to write in your pronouns and to change the setting to “display every time.”
Pronouns on Instagram
Similarly, Instagram has now made it simple to edit your profile and include your pronouns. This is a quick action that you can take, today, to be more inclusive.
Pronouns in your EHR
Your Electronic Health Record might have the option to collect this information in an included template or in a custom form that you create. If you have the option, please do so.
Pronouns on LinkedIn
If you go to your own profile and click on the little pencil to edit, there is a dropdown menu to select and display your pronouns. Easy, peasy!
Key Takeaways: What are your pronouns?
Taking a moment to share your pronouns, especially if you are a cis-gender dietitian, helps to normalize the conversation. This is just the bare minimum of courtesy and respect, but it is a great place to start. If you haven’t already done so, take a moment to share your pronouns on your email, Zoom profile and social media profiles. This is one small step we can take together to make the world a kinder place.
Happy pride, Snickerdoodles.