You’ll notice a new addition next to our name tag station. We now have pronoun stickers that you can add to your name tag.
If people sometimes or often use the wrong pronouns for you, we hope the stickers will help others to learn and respect your pronouns.
If people rarely or never use the wrong pronouns for you, we hope you’ll use a pronoun sticker to support your trans, genderqueer and gender nonconforming Kehilla-mates, and to help us grow our practice of welcome and respect.
Why is Kehilla offering pronoun stickers for nametags? Why ask people for their pronouns in the first place?
So glad you asked! The reason we’re offering pronoun stickers (and sometimes beginning meetings/gatherings by asking people to say pronouns along with their names) is that we want to foster a community where everyone feels included, welcomed, and celebrated. For transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary people, including Rabbi Dev and Rabbi Gray, sharing pronouns can be the best way to make sure that everyone is referred to in a way that feels respectful and appropriate to them. This is especially true for those who aren’t always perceived in a way that’s consistent with their identity.
Sharing my pronouns and asking about other people’s pronouns feels awkward. Should I still do it?
Yup. This is one of those things that only feels normal if we practice it. It may feel awkward now, but over time, it will start to feel much more natural.
What should I do if I mess up?
Say sorry, correct yourself, and move on. It never feels good to mess up! But calling a lot of attention to your mistake only results in (unintentionally) asking the person whose pronouns you’ve messed up to take care of you. If you need to process your mistake (and it’s totally ok and normal if you do!), find someone else to do that processing with.
Can you remind me what a pronoun is?
Absolutely. Pronouns are the part of speech that takes the place of someone’s name. Some examples of pronouns are: they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, and zie/hir/hirs.
What’s that last one?
Zie (pronounced “zee”) / hir (“heer”) / hirs (“heers”) are gender-neutral pronouns. Using them in a sentence looks like this: Have you seen Alex this Shabbat? Zie is wearing hir most fabulous sequined kippah.
Other people who use gender-neutral pronouns use they/them/theirs. Using that in a sentence looks like this: Avi is such an amazing leyner! They chanted their Torah portion with excellent flair and confidence.
Isn’t “they” always a plural pronoun? I don’t like being grammatically incorrect!
“They” has hundreds of years of history in the English language as a grammatically correct gender-neutral pronoun, dating back to the 16th century or earlier. Major dictionaries have recognized singular “they” as grammatically correct for years, including the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, and dictionary.com. As of 2017, the AP Style Guide approves the use of singular “they” when a subject doesn’t identify as male or female.
And here’s the best part: you already know how to use “they” as a singular pronoun. You do it every day! Let’s say you see a water bottle on the table in the social hall and you don’t know whose it is. You’d probably say something like, “Someone forgot their water bottle! I want to make sure they don’t leave Kehilla without it.” Using “they” for non-binary people is as simple as that.
Wait, what does non-binary mean?
Non-binary means that someone doesn’t identify as being within the gender binary. Binary is a word that means there are two options—hot or cold, day or night, man or woman—and being non-binary means that your gender is something other than man, woman, boy, or girl.
Shouldn’t I be able to tell which pronouns someone uses by looking at them?
Not always. Sometimes people’s pronouns are aligned with conventional gender norms and sometimes not. Because gender is part of our identity, which is our inner experience, it’s not always possible to know someone’s gender (inner experience) just by looking at them (outer appearance).
So how will I know which pronouns someone uses?
Ask! Or look at their name tag.
I have more questions! What should I do?
At our upcoming events, you will likely see community members wearing sparkly purple buttons that say “Ask me about pronouns.” These are your go-to people for all pronoun-related questions. If you can’t find someone with a button, you can email Hazzan Shulamit at email@example.com.