This includes the usage of pronouns, which are "a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase."
It's important that we understand pronouns and their function, because they go beyond simple substitution of nouns in modern culture. Pronouns are a topic of much discussion lately, and they're an important part of our everyday lives. Pronouns come in many shapes and sizes, so here are some examples:
I didn't know they painted their kitchen pink this weekend!
Have you ever seen a double rainbow? It is positively life-changing.
Someone left their costume on the stage.
The reason why pronouns have become a highly-discussed topic is because they are also a core part of our identities, and they enable us to express our gender identities more accurately. In order to promote a more inclusive environment, GitLab is committed to recognizing and using the pronouns that our team members identify for themselves.
Due to the nature of language, there are many pronouns that one could choose from. Perhaps the most common of these are she/her, they/them, and he/him.
The way people display pronouns vary, but most people choose to display their personal pronouns in the format shown above. Occasionally, one might also include the corresponding possessive pronoun, such as they/them/theirs, as a matter of personal preference or to provide additional clarity.
The use of "they" as a singular pronoun is often cited as grammatically incorrect, and some argue that it should only be used as a plural pronoun. While the plural "they" did arise before singular "they," the singular they has been in use since the 14th century.
Historically, the singular "they" was used in place of a singular pronoun where the gender of the subject is not known, as in this example from Wikipedia:
Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Could you please let them know where they can get it?
More recently, "they" has seen an increase in usage as a singular pronoun for known individuals who do not identify as a man or woman. Simply use "they" as you normally would in a sentence when referring to someone who uses they/them pronouns, and you're all set! If you ever get stuck, Grammarly has a great write-up on singular they.
You might see multiple sets of pronouns listed for one person, such as:
she/her or they/them
Or even simply:
This usually signals that the individual is fine if you use either set of pronouns for them. Generally, pronouns are listed in order of preference, so it's best to use the first one in the list if you're unsure.
While many individuals choose between she/her, they/them, and he/him, some folks don't identify with these. As a result, one might choose pronouns that let them more accurately reflect their gender identity, such as ze/hir. There are many neopronouns in use, and while there may never be a comprehensive compendium of them all, pronoun.is gets pretty close! If you're interested in neopronouns, you can read more about them in this NY Times article (requires subscription) and on Pronouns.org Neopronouns guide. Pronouns.org also contains many additional pronoun-related guides.
As with someone's name, you should respect the pronouns that someone shares with you when referring to them. If someone uses he/him pronouns, it would be inappropriate to refer to him using other pronouns, unless specified. Just as it would be disrespectful to intentionally misgender you, you should make the effort to correctly gender other people.
Mistakes happen! Every now and then, you might slip and use the incorrect pronoun for someone. This could happen for a variety of reasons, so it's good to be aware of what to do if you accidentally use the wrong pronouns.
If you've accidentally used the wrong pronoun when referring to someone, simply correct yourself and move on. Since we all make mistakes sometimes, it's usually not necessary to draw additional attention.
If you suspect that your mistake might have hurt someone's feelings, it's best to reach out to them one-on-one to check in. A quick apology for using the wrong pronouns can go a long way! This is especially useful if you noticed your mistake after the fact, perhaps after seeing someone's pronouns listed in Slack.
Set your GitLab.com pronouns on your GitLab profile.
Set your Slack pronouns on your Slack profile.
Set your Zoom pronouns through the Zoom web portal.