Sheba Feminine

A guide to understanding pronouns

Oct 27, 2022 | Education, Mental Health | 2 comments

As South African pride month comes to an end we thought we’d focus on an important topic that’s fundamental to the inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. Everyone has pronouns and makes use of pronouns when referring to themselves or other people. In the context of the queer community however, pronouns are used to affirm someone’s gender identity.

Just like you can’t guess or assume someone’s name by looking at them, you can’t assume someone’s gender identity or pronouns by looking at them. So, let’s back track. What is gender identity? According to an NPR article gender identity is “one’s own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others. For most people, gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth, the American Psychological Association notes. For transgender people, gender identity differs in varying degrees from the sex assigned at birth.” Gender is a wide spectrum, unlike the sex we’re assigned at birth which just categorises people into male or female depending on their genitalia.

Gender expression on the other hand is how someone chooses to present their gender outwardly, for example the way they dress or behave. According to the same article it’s “how a person presents gender outwardly, through behavior, clothing, voice or other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.”

By using the correct pronouns when referring to someone you’re affirming their gender identity, accepting them as they are and letting them know that you see them. When it comes to finding out what someone’s pronouns are, the best way to do so is by saying what your pronouns are first. So, kind of like when you meet someone for the first time and you introduce yourself by saying your name, you can do the same thing with your pronouns. For example, when meeting someone for the first time you can say something like “Hi, I’m X and my pronouns are X”. This takes off a lot of pressure, and although it may take some time to get used to it will eventually come naturally with little effort.

It’s also important to note that some people might not be comfortable with sharing their pronouns, especially around people or spaces they’re not familiar with or they don’t necessarily feel safe. Also, don’t single out certain people when sharing your pronouns. Do this for EVERYONE you encounter, not just specific people. If you use the incorrect pronouns, there’s no need to make a big deal of it. Just apologise and move on. Adding your pronouns to emails, resume’s, social media etc is a great practice too, especially if you’re an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Some people can also use multiple pronouns like he/they or she/they. Below are a few common pronouns that are used:

  • she/her/her
  • they/them/theirs
  • he/him/his
  • zie/zim/zir
  • sie/sie/hir


  1. Artwell

    I am interested to know what the pronouns zie/zim/zir and sie/sie/hir refer to?


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