“What are your pronouns?” is a seemingly innocuous question that has become increasingly common. Pronouns are now frequently displayed prominently in social-media bios, email signatures and conference name tags. Vice President Kamala Harris features “she/her” pronouns in her Twitter bio, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg includes “he/him” in his. Then there are the singular “they/them” pronouns used by “nonbinary” people who identify as neither male nor female, as well as a growing list of bespoke “neopronouns” such as “ze/zir” or “fae/faer,” and the even stranger “noun-self” neopronouns like “bun/bunself” which, according to the New York Times , are identities that can encompass animals and fantasy characters.
A recent survey of 40,000 “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth” in the U.S. found that a full 25% use pronouns other than she/her and he/him exclusively. The Human Rights Campaign, which claims to be the “nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization,” recently tweeted that we should all begin conversations with “Hi, my pronouns are _____. What are yours?” We are told that asking for, sharing and respecting pronouns is “inclusive” to trans and nonbinary people, and that failing to do so may even constitute violence and oppression.