Make mine a word salad: ‘Chosen pronoun,’ ‘preferred pronoun,’ or just plain pronoun?

milknhoneey said:

i saw your post about the inclusion of pronouns in bios. i just wanted you to know that saying preferred pronouns is not correct. using the right pronouns is not optional, which is what preferred implies

Hello milknhoneey, and thanks for your comment.

My goal in the pronoun work that I do is to loosen up as many rigid rules as possible in order to call people in to doing the work using the tools they already have (e.g., how to apologize when you make a good-faith mistake). I think this is better than producing circumstances where people can give themselves an ‘out’ because they come to believe that gender-neutral pronoun users are on another planet and that meeting our needs requires a niche skillset, vocabulary and mastery of protocol.

I’ve thought long and hard about ‘my preferred pronoun’ versus ‘my chosen pronoun’ versus just ‘my pronoun’ etc. and I deliberately move around in my usage of these phrases, sometimes using all three. This is because, as above, I want inward-facing debates of this kind to yield to conversations about exactly how GNP users can go about getting our needs met by all the different constituencies in our lives. I want more skill-sharing and less debate. Also, as a teacher, I do a lot of work with my (mostly cis-gender) students to notice and name their own preferences in the gender department, and to own their own gendered intelligence and strategies for presenting and being read as the kind of (odds are) man or woman they identify as. I believe that the more this kind of expertise is situated as such, the more people can be called in. I know that many folks have bad experiences with ‘preference’ language, and my strategy there is to make more visible the preferences that cis-gender people also have but which are invisible as such.

I hope this provides some food for thought, and all the best,




  1. How about (when feasible) *using* the person’s preferred gender language, in both pronouns and other ways?

    For example, suppose someone’s writing a collection of bios of people who act on stage, including a nonbinary person who was AFAB.

    “They have wanted to be an actor [now that English has made “actor” gender-neutral too and left “actress” female] since they were a child.”

    gets the point across without any overt hey-look-at-the-pronouns thing. The fact that this is singular they instead of plural they is taken care of by using “an actor” instead of “actors” and “a child” instead of “children.” No big deal.

    “They have wanted to act since childhood, and they prefer they/them to she/her.”

    is kinda more stilted and distracting from the acting.

    “They have wanted to be an actress since they was a girl.”

    gets this actor’s *pronouns* all correct but still manages to misgender this actor and miss the point (unless they actually told the bio writer that they do prefer female language usage for those years of their life).


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