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Ahead of International Pronouns Day: UCF’s Dr. Martha Brenckle Says It’s Time We Asked For, Used People’s Preferred Pronouns

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Photo: Ian Taylor

Saturday is International Pronouns Day, a day to celebrate how language can be used by people in the LGBTQ community and their allies to claim and affirm identity. 

90.7 WMFE spoke with University of Central Florida’s Dr. Martha Brenckle about preferred pronouns: what they are, how to use them and what to do if you mess up. 

Read the full conversation. 

Danielle: Dr. Brenckle, tell me a little bit when I say preferred pronouns, what are those and give me some examples of preferred pronouns people might use?

Martha: Well, they’re the pronouns that already exist. Like I use, I put under my name, I put she, her, hers, because if I’m going to be referred to in the third person, then that is how I would like to be referred to. Other people would use then the masculine pronouns, and still others would use they, theirs.

Danielle: Can you tell me a little bit about how folks can use they and them? Because, you know, we already know how to use he and she and hers and his, but tell me about how you use they and them?

Martha: Well, they and them are just non-gendered. Right? He and she is. So, if you want to use a non-gendered pronoun, they is probably the easiest one to use. There was a move to have different words, like ze, per was another, but they just never took off. And we’ve always had the word they as a pronoun that referred to people. And so it’s just as easy to use that one. Sarah went to the store, and they bought a bag of oranges.

Danielle: Tell me about why it’s so important to make sure to use people’s preferred pronouns?

Martha: Well, it’s how you identify yourself and who you know who you are. And when people use the wrong pronouns all the time, what they’re saying is, ‘your identity is not valuable. It’s not valuable enough for me to find out how you want to be referred to’.

Danielle: Tell me about, you know, how you can find out what someone’s preferred pronouns are, is it okay to ask somebody?

Martha: Yes, of course, it is. A lot of the meetings I go to say at the Center on Mills, when I go to meetings there, we often go around the room and introduce ourselves. Well, besides our names, we will give our preferred pronouns.

Danielle: You know, when it comes to the business world, I think they’re a little slower to catch up. But how can people incorporate this in business and in work, any recommendations for how to train folks to use preferred pronouns?

Martha: One of the ways to make it more commonplace and sort of naturalize the process is for managers to start putting it in their email signatures and on their business cards. And that way, it just seems like this is what we all do.

Danielle: If you mess up and you mistakenly use the wrong pronoun, you know, people feel very bad about this. How should they go about remedying that problem?

Martha: Well, once they’ve been told they’ve used the wrong pronoun, I would immediately apologize and make a note so that I don’t do it again.

Danielle: Do you think it’s going to just become commonplace and even easier with Gen Z to just use people’s preferred pronouns? I think that they’re so much more kind of in tune to that.

Martha: Yes, I’ve noticed that the students that I’m teaching now are so much more open to things. They kind of like the preferred pronouns because then they are labeling themselves rather than somebody on the outside labeling them.

If you’d like to listen to the full conversation, click on the clip at the top of the page.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »