HOW TO ASK SOMEONE FOR THEIR PRONOUNS
The simplest way to prompt someone for their pronouns is to offer yours: "Hi, I'm Schuyler, I use he/him pronouns. How about you?" Most people will respond by mirroring the information you provide. I always encourage people to introduce themselves with their pronouns regardless of whether or not they are trying to figure out someone else's pronouns as that normalizes the practice of doing so, reinforcing that we cannot always tell someone's pronouns simply by how they look. (See above link about putting pronouns in your bio for more on this.)
If you've already introduced yourself and/or names are already known, you can still re-introduce with your pronouns. I've done this before: "Hey, I don't think I shared my pronouns when I introduced myself! I use he/him, how about you?"
If none of these things work, I advise avoiding pronouns until you know them for sure. You can do so by using just the person's name, or they/them pronouns.
I strongly discourage asking for a specific individual's pronouns loudly in a group setting because this can put that person on the spot, which could potentially be very uncomfortable or even outing for that person. One should definitely include pronoun introductions in a group introduction setting, but in this situation, every individual would be expected to share (if they want to) instead of singling out one person whose gender you're unsure about. If absolutely necessary to single one person out because you didn't catch their pronouns, I'd do so when you can find a quiet moment with just them. I usually then re-introduce my pronouns and will say something like, "Hey, I didn't catch your pronouns - I use he/him, how about you?"
PRONOUNS FOR PARENTS & ALLIES —
Parents, part of your child’s transition will be you learning to use the appropriate pronouns, regardless of how you feel about them or how you view your child’s gender.
A few things to remember:
Mistakes do happen; it’s how you deal with them that matters. Apologize & correct yourself. My parents made mistakes and I reminded myself that this was their transition, too.
Habit and history are not excuses. Habit and history can most certainly explain difficulty & reflex, but as time progresses, tolerance for mistakes decreases – and rightly so.
This might be hard. Just because a task is hard does not mean you shouldn’t do it. You can and should do hard things. Especially in protecting your child.
Remember that while your child’s transition can be difficult for you to experience, you cannot blame your child for this difficulty or use them to support you through it. Your child is not your support through their transition; you are your child’s support. Your child is NOT the person with which to process your difficult feelings. Your struggle is your responsibility. Your child is reaching out to you for support and this is the moment you can either seize or you can fail. (Failure can often increase the risk for suicidal behavior. For more about this, visit this page.)
Some tips & tricks:
Practice. Write about the five most memorable experiences with your kid with the correct and current pronoun. Every time you misgender your kid, gender them correctly three times in three different ways. (e.g. “He is going to the store to get his groceries because they are necessary to him.)
Correct yourself in your head, aloud, always. Even if your child is not around.
Do some soul searching on your own gender. Seeing your child correctly might require the release or deconstruction of societal constraints boxes or expectations of man or womanhood.
It might also be useful to investigate why it’s hard.
Creating affirming spaces for transgender and gender diverse colleagues and patients has important benefits (see here & here). The American Psychiatric Association & the American Psychological Association have both stressed the importance of gender affirmation.
NOT creating gender-affirming spaces has been shown to have deleterious mental and physical health consequences (see here & here).
Here is a general guide for gender-inclusive language beyond just pronouns.
FOR TRANS KIDS —
How I explain misgendering: When [you] call me the pronouns & name I no longer identify with, it says: You don’t exist. It says: I don’t see you and I value my view of you more than I value your comfort and safety. Misgendering me hurts my feelings a great deal. I know I might look a different way now than I did but I am still me. And I have always been me. And [you] using the name and pronouns that I use now – always, even with old pictures – is a way to validate that. To validate me. To say you see me.
If they still misgender you, you must begin to validate yourself, anyway. Remind yourself that their choice to invalidate you does not mean that your identity is actually invalid. It means something about their character; not yours. You are no less of a man, woman, or person. You are still you. Do not let yourself invalidate yourself because they invalidate you. Choose this moment to remind yourself you are still valid. And that you absolutely belong here.