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May 15, 2021

Be inclusive, share your pronouns

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Veterinarians and others have likely noticed the words “she/her” or “he/him” popping up in more email signatures and Zoom meetings in recent years.

For many cisgender people, individuals who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, their pronouns aren’t something they may think or worry about. But for people who are transgender, individuals who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, or nonbinary, individuals who don’t identify within a binary system of gender and might use “they/them” or other pronouns, incorrect pronoun use and misgendering can be painful.

llustration: People with pronouns written on their shirts


Dr. Dane Whitaker, president of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community and a transgender man, said it was exciting to have conversations about pronouns during a Q&A session on March 15 at the virtual Student AVMA Symposium. He also spoke about how allies can use pronouns to be more inclusive during the session “From Personal to Practical: Building on Experiences to Understand the Importance of Proactive Personal Pronouns.”

“Respecting someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show that you respect their gender identity,” Dr. Whitaker said during the session. “It involves simple changes in behavior that you can take away from this and start doing.”

Dr. Whitaker suggested the following tips to be more inclusive to people of all genders:

  • State your pronouns when you introduce yourself.
  • Share your pronouns wherever you can, such as in your email signature and social media bio and on a name tag or stethoscope.
  • Don’t call out other people by asking for their pronouns unless you ask for everyone to share in a group setting.
  • Don’t use words such as “preferred” when talking about pronouns. A person’s pronouns aren’t optional.
  • If you unintentionally misgender someone, apologize and don’t make it about yourself.
  • If you see someone misgendering someone else, call it out, if the environment is safe.
  • Consider using client intake forms that include a pronoun section.

“Not having to worry about the pronouns someone will choose for you is gender privilege,” Dr. Whitaker said. “If you have that privilege but fail to acknowledge or support someone else’s gender identity, that is hurtful and oppressive. Stick up for and stand up for folks.”

The AVMA Brave Space Certificate Program is focused on creating healthier, safer, and more inclusive veterinary teams and organizations.

The Pride Veterinary Medical Community has resources for allies. Pride VMC is also selling pronoun stethoscope clips.