Gender Pronouns Statement
Non-binary gender identities are not new. They have always existed in many cultures around the world and have been erased through colonization. By using gender pronouns, we invite everyone to think more critically about gender and re-examine how we relate to one another.
We acknowledge that while the practice of sharing gender pronouns aims to raise awareness of the diversity and complexity of gender, it is an imperfect practice. Instead of being a natural and biological category, gender is a social construct that has granted power and access to some at the expense of others.
At the John W. Engeman Theater, we respect everyone’s gender pronouns, and we work to deter assumptions about gender based on appearance. We support everyone’s right to share their gender pronouns.
For trans and nonbinary people, sharing gender pronouns can be an act of courage, provoking gender-based micro and macroaggressions. While we encourage sharing gender pronouns in our spaces, we support people’s right not to share their pronouns publicly. We welcome and honor all gender identities at our institution.
Gender pronouns are used to refer to someone in third person. In the English language, they/them/theirs are the most common gender-neutral, third person pronouns. For example: “Can you see who’s at the door and let them know I’ll be down in a second?” Grammatically, we have always used “they” to refer to someone whose gender we don’t know. Gender identity should never be assumed. It is appropriate to use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them/theirs if you don’t know what pronouns someone uses.
In our day-to-day life, we often make assumptions about someone’s gender based on their appearance, voice, name, clothing choices and more. There is privilege in aligning with the gender assigned to you at birth and the gender society sees you as.
Trans and gender non-conforming people face immense discrimination and violence simply for being who they are. Discrimination and oppression on the basis of gender often intersects with other aspects of who we are: race, class, ability and more. Colonization often erases gender nonconforming identities, such as those of Native American Two Spirit people, who were part of Indigenous society long before European settlers arrived in the United States.
In order to create an inclusive and just environment, we must give people the agency to assert how they want to be addressed. Asking for and correctly using someone’s pronouns are the first steps to treating someone with dignity.
At the John W. Engeman Theater, we encourage folks to introduce themselves with their gender pronouns when they enter our space, at first rehearsal, in email signatures and more. We recognize that normalizing the use of gender pronouns is an imperfect step towards gender justice. Hypervisibility of trans and gender non-conforming folks alone without deeper work to undo our internalized transphobia is deadly. Taking the step to think more critically about gender allows us to find more just and ethical ways of relating to one another.
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