Recently, I backed out of a live event about pronouns and belonging just a few weeks before we were supposed to go live. It started with subtle hints in the marketing copy. Questions that felt condescending. One too many interesting word choices with a side of misgendering, even after corrections. From a DEI expert, no less.
Something wasn’t sitting right with me. I needed to say no. The bold, brave part of me was all, “it’s a hell yes or it’s a no!” Then my anxiety was like, “but I care if they like me?” Feels weird to admit, but that’s one of the hardest parts about being out. Yet another reason to wonder if someone likes you as if most of us aren’t all filled with a million insecure questions anyway.
I went back-and-forth with a few friends, my team, everyone to try to understand why I didn’t feel right. Why I shouldn’t be doing this conversation. Ultimately what it came down to is this feeling that they were using pronouns as a marketing tool. My identity was being used for clicks, and I felt this friction.
Misgendering Matters: A Feeling You Can’t Forget
It’s the same friction I feel when I get misgendered in the first place – this feeling of putting your foot in the wrong shoe. We’ve all done it: your left foot, right shoe. It just feels weird. That’s the misgendering feeling for me.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling that without an answer. Now that I have some ideas and I know that I am non-binary, the friction is more obvious. I have language for all of it.
However, it’s hard to educate everyone else on this knowing if only queer people have pronouns in their headlines and signatures. With that said, I asked my team to update their signatures and I wanted to share our template with you, especially during Trans Awareness Week in a country where trans rights are coming under attack every single day.
All that to say: awareness and acceptance are overdue. This week and every week.
Pronouns In Your Email Signature: A Template You Can Use.
I did not come up with this. My friend Jen Fry had this in her signature. We just did it with our resources at Three Ears Media.
In our email signatures, we added a link to the free guide that can help anyone understand pronouns and what active allyship means. Everyone on my team has this.
*Copy and paste this template for yourself*
First Name, Last Name
Position – Company
My pronouns are [PRONOUNS]. This is why I shared that.
Normalize sharing your pronouns, whether that’s in your day to day life or in your email signature.
And remember, pronouns aren’t a marketing tool and they aren’t here for clickbait – they’re a part of our identities as human beings. We aren’t products for sale. We are people, and our identities deserve to be seen – not erased or used for clicks. That’s why I share my pronouns, and I encourage you to do so, too. Being seen makes this world more safe for people you’ll never meet.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.