Should people have to display their pronouns?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
January 25, 2022, 9:47 AM GMT+0

The practice of displaying pronouns is becoming increasingly popular on social media and in the workplace

People are increasingly choosing to display the pronouns that they are referred to by. One common method is to list the first and third-person pronouns they use, be this “he/him” or “she/her” for example. Other people may use neutral pronouns such as “they/them” if they identify as non-binary when it comes to gender.

Some choose to display their pronouns in this way to make it easier for people to avoid misgendering them, and others to show support for the transgender and non-binary communities. Many social media platforms now offer the option as part of users’ profiles, and the practice is now being adopted by workplaces as well.

Approaching two in five Britons (38%) say they have come across someone saying or displaying their pronouns, versus 42% who have not. Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger Britons are vastly more likely to have done so, including three quarters (77%) of people aged between 18 and 24. Only 14% of these younger adults say they have not seen someone display their pronouns on social media before, versus 62% of those aged 65 and over who say the same. 

It has been suggested that it is important for everyone in society to display the pronouns they use, to create a more inclusive environment for those who use less common pronouns or ones different from those they were assigned at birth. The trade union Prospect says that doing so would also help reduce a burden on transgender and non-binary people who sometimes have to explain their use of pronouns.

Few Britons agree, however. Only one in ten people (10%) think that everyone should generally display or state their pronouns, with the largest number of Britons tending to think that only those who wish to should display their pronouns (48%). Another 17% think people should generally not bring up their pronouns unless asked.

Six in ten Britons aged between 18 and 24 think only those who want to should say or display their pronouns. Some 14% of this group think everyone should do so, as do 16% of those 65 and over – however one in five of this older group thinks that people should not do so unless asked.

Should people display their pronouns at work?

In November, Marks & Spencer announced it was following other supermarkets in allowing its workers to have their pronouns displayed on their name badges. Elsewhere, numerous other companies have incorporated employees’ pronouns into email signatures.

Approaching one in four people think that it is a good idea for workers to display their pronouns on their name badges (24%) and in email signatures (23%). A further three in ten (31% and 32% respectively) think doing so is neither a good nor bad idea. However, some 24% think it’s a bad idea to have pronouns on name badges, and 23% think it’s a bad idea to have them in email signatures.

This compares to only 15% of the public who think it’s a bad idea for people to display pronouns on their personal social media. Another 28% say it’s a good idea to feature them on social media, and 35% think it’s neither good nor bad to do so.

Once again, the concept is most well received by the young. Some 51% of those between 18 and 24 think including pronouns on work name badges is a positive idea, and 45% say the same about email signatures. This compares to just 16% and 13% respectively among those aged 65 and over – with three in ten thinking using pronouns in these two professional settings is a bad idea (30% and 31%).

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