Pronouns FAQ

This is the place to find answers to some of your questions about pronoun use. Here, we have included some commonly asked questions, as well as specific information for students and instructors.

General pronoun FAQ
FAQ about pronouns in the WSU profile system
Pronoun FAQ for students
Pronoun FAQ for faculty and staff


General pronoun FAQ

Q: What is a pronoun?

Pronouns are words that we use to refer to someone without using their name. The most common ones are she/her/hers, he/him/his and they/them/theirs. There are also other options, some of which you can see in this chart of pronouns.

Examples:

"Ahmed transferred to WSU this year. He is excited to get involved on campus!"

"Terry is excited about their classes. I'm thrilled for them!"

Some people do not use pronouns at all.

Example:

"Sam transferred to Wayne State this year. Sam is eager to get involved on campus."

Q: Why are pronouns important?

You cannot assume someone's pronouns by name or appearance. If you are unsure of someone's pronoun, feel free to share your own and then ask. When someone shares their pronouns with you, it is polite and respectful to use the pronouns that they have shared. By sharing your own pronouns and acknowledging those of others, we can avoid making assumptions and participate in the work of building a more welcoming campus community at Wayne State.

Q: How do I ask about pronouns?

If you are unsure of someone's pronouns, it is OK to ask in a respectful way. Asking for pronouns can depend on the setting you are in; you may want to find a private time to speak. Generally, when interacting with a classmate, student or coworker, it is best to share yours first, then ask for their pronouns. 

In an individual interaction, you can introduce yourself and share yours first.

Examples:

"My name is Jason, and I use they/them/theirs pronouns. What is your name, and what pronouns do you use?"

"By the way, I use he/him/his pronouns. What are your pronouns?"

It might also be appropriate to share pronouns in group settings: 

Example: 

"Let's go around and each say our name, pronouns and hometown."

Q: What if a person uses multiple pronouns?

A person might use multiple pronouns depending on the context or interchangeably. You may see this noted as "she/they," for example, to indicate the use of she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns. When you learn that someone uses multiple pronouns, you may want to ask when and where you should use each.

Example: 

"Hi. My name is Alex, and I use he/him and they/them pronouns."

"Hi, Alex. I'm Sara. I use she/her. Are there specific situations when I should use one set rather than the other?"

If you can't ask the person directly, it is rare that you would use multiple pronouns at the same time. Avoid saying, "I met Alex yesterday, and he/they told me this funny story." Choose one until you know the correct context of each: "I met Alex yesterday, and they told me this funny story." 

Q: What if I make a mistake?

Nobody is perfect! Correcting a mistake shows that you respect the person and their identity. If you realize or are told later that you made a mistake, apologize, correct yourself without making a fuss and move forward using the appropriate pronouns. It's important to apologize when you make a mistake, but don't let it derail the conversation. 

Example:

"I'm sorry. I meant they."

Q: What should I do if a person uses the incorrect pronouns for someone else?

Helping make sure that everyone uses the right pronouns can be a great way to be an ally, but context is important. Sometimes a person might not want additional attention drawn to them, or they may not want someone else standing up for them. In other cases, a person might appreciate your speaking up for them. 

It's OK to ask if the person would want you to correct others. 

Example:

"I heard our professor use the wrong pronoun for you in class. Should I correct her or others in the future?"

If the wrong pronoun is used for a person who is not present, try a brief correction. Keep in mind that you may not know the correct pronoun for a given situation, and you don't want to unintentionally make a disclosure about the person. 

Example: 

"I think Skylar uses they/them pronouns. Am I wrong?"

Q: What if I can't ask, or I don't know?

Adding pronouns in our profiles can help alleviate some uncertainty, but if you are ever unsure about the pronouns someone uses, you can always use the person's name or the gender-inclusive pronoun "they/them/theirs" until you find an appropriate moment to ask. Make sure to use the correct pronouns once someone tells you. 

Q: Who benefits from having a display pronoun option in our profile system? 

We can all benefit from tools that help us refer to one another respectfully. Pronoun displays are especially useful if people regularly make the wrong assumptions about your pronouns based on your name or appearance. But even if people generally make the right guess about your pronouns, updating them in your profile contributes to an inclusive campus culture.

Q: Should I put my pronouns in my email signature?: 

This is totally up to you! It can be a good way to help people know what to call you, or to signal your willingness to learn and respect other people's pronouns. One good practice is to share your pronouns and include a link to this page so people can learn more. 

Example: 

Brandon Shamoun
he, him, his (what is this and why does this matter)

Find out how to update your name and pronouns in your WSU profile by visiting the Registrar's website


FAQ about pronouns in the WSU profile system

Q: How do I update my pronouns so that they show up on the appropriate Wayne State systems?

You can find information on how to update/change your pronouns by visiting the Registrar's website.

Q: If I set my identifying pronouns in my WSU profile, where will people be able to see them?

The WSU profile pronouns will appear parenthetically following your name (e.g., Alyssa Jones (she/her)) in places like class lists and Canvas; advisors will also be able to see the pronouns you set in the systems they use when you meet. 

Your pronouns will NOT appear in systems that require the use of legal identification, like financial aid or transcripts.

Q: What if I set my pronouns, then need to change them?

You can update your pronouns at any time and as many times as you need. The university systems generally populate new data within 24 Hours. After that, your pronouns, whether added, changed, or removed, will appear in the system as you wish.

Q: What happens if I don't set my pronouns in the system?

Literally nothing. The spaces in the university's systems designated to show pronouns will remain empty. You retain agency over how your pronouns are disclosed. If you decide to update your pronouns, you can simply visit the Registrar's website. You can also opt to use "ask me". Whether or not to update the pronouns in your profile is a personal choice, but normalizing sharing pronouns as a regular practice can help reduce the assumptions we make about others.

Q: What does "ask me" mean?

"Ask me" informs classmates, staff, and faculty that they should ask you which pronouns you use. This allows you to retain control of when, how, and to whom you share your pronouns. Additionally, "ask me" is appropriate for anyone who uses pronouns not yet in the system. You can request additional pronouns by emailing the pronoun team at pride@wayne.edu.


Pronoun FAQ for students

Q: If I update pronouns in my profile, who will see it?

The pronouns you select in your WSU profile will appear parenthetically following your name (e.g., Alyssa Jones (she/her)) in places like class lists and Canvas; advisors will also be able to see the pronouns you set in the systems they use when you meet, and your peers in online classes or online discussion boards will also see the display pronouns.

Your pronouns will NOT appear in systems that require the use of legal identification, like financial aid or transcripts.

Q: How often can I change my display pronouns?

You can update your pronouns at any time and as many times as you need. The university systems generally populate new data within 24 hours. After that, your pronouns — whether added, changed or removed — will appear in the system as you wish. Visit the Registrar's Name Change website for more information on updating your profile.

Q: What if I'm not ready or don't want to change my display pronouns, but I want an instructor to call me something different?

That's OK! There's no one way to share your pronouns with peers or instructors. You could send your instructor an email or visit during office hours to talk about what you would like to be called and how they can refer to you. Additionally, you can choose the "ask me" option in your profile to let them know that you're open to questions. Visit the Pride Resources page for more information about sharing your pronouns.

Q: How can I get involved with other students invested in pronoun awareness? 

We would love to hear from you. You can reach out by emailing pride@wayne.edu.


Pronoun FAQ for faculty and staff

Q: How can I be sure that I am using the correct pronouns for my students?

Lead by example. In an initial interaction, you can introduce yourself with your name and pronouns. For example, "Welcome to English 1020. My name is Professor Jones, and I use she/her pronouns." This will allow others to share as they feel comfortable. If it is a later interaction, it's OK to ask how you should refer to them — but never force someone to share their pronouns. 

Q: What if a student tells me they want to use different pronouns or a different name, but doesn't update their profile? 

There are a number of reasons why a student may not update their profile, and that's their prerogative; however, to ensure the student is aware of their options, take the time to meet with them individually and/or to share the resources on this page. They may share more about why they have not updated their profile or appreciate that you took the extra step to talk with them. 

Q: What if I don't want to use the pronouns that students are setting in their profiles? 

It is inappropriate to disregard students' expressed names or pronouns; if they update their profile to share a name or pronoun, that is the correct and respectful one to use. You could choose to refer to all students by their names only, without pronouns, or to refer to all students using they/them/their pronouns, but you should never single out any student. If you have concerns about using the correct pronouns for any student, please contact Kristin Johnston, advisor for student engagement in the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement, via email kristin.johnston@wayne.edu

Q: What can I say about pronouns in my syllabus?

Here is some sample language that you can use or modify: 

As part of a respectful classroom community, I will do my best to call you by the correct name and pronouns, and I will ask that your peers do the same. You can let me know what name and pronouns you use by visiting the C&IT Name Change site and updating your WSU profile (this will change your display name and add display pronouns to your listing in my class roster and on Canvas; you can make changes to your name or pronouns at any time). If you don't want to change your profile, you can contact me by email to let me know what name and pronouns you'd like me to use. Find out more about why pronouns are important by visiting the Pride Pronouns website.

You may also want to address pronouns in the section of your syllabus addressing community guidelines or classroom conduct expectations.

Q: How else can I make students feel comfortable in my courses?

Please visit our Pride resources page for tools to design more inclusive and equitable classrooms. 

For more ideas and recommendations, visit the Office of Teaching and Learning's guidelines for making classrooms inclusive