Our communities are at their best when everyone is able to respect each other’s differences and work together to create a more diverse, more inclusive society.

Four of Washington’s public higher education institutions — Central Washington University, Washington State University, Eastern­ Washington University and Western Washington University — agree that celebrating our differences makes us stronger, and have joined together to support International Pronouns Day on Wednesday, October 21.

The four participating universities showed their support for International Pronouns Day by participating in a joint video production that features voices from around the state talking about what the proper use of pronouns means to them.

“Washington State University is proud to affirm the importance and significance of International Pronouns Day,” said Jaime Nolan, WSU’s associate vice president of community, equity, and inclusive excellence. “We stand in solidarity for the right of every human being to define who they are and how they choose to identify. Respecting every one of us in this way affirms our shared sense of humanity.”

Most people refer to themselves with the pronouns sets “he/him” or “she/her,” but a growing number of individuals use “they/them” pronouns or other pronoun sets. Some use pronouns that aren’t associated with one of those two most common (binary) genders because they are nonbinary, meaning they define themselves as neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.

The concept of International Pronouns Day is centered on the use of third-person personal pronouns, which are used to describe a person when you are talking about them. The worldwide campaign seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns more common because being referred to by the wrong pronouns can have a negative effect on individuals who are transgender or gender-nonconforming.

WSU, CWU, EWU and WWU each believe in the importance of doing everything we can to make our students, faculty, and staff feel respected and welcome, regardless of their differences.

“Our goal is to help people understand why pronouns matter and how using them can deeply impact a person’s experience, quality of life, and sense of belonging,” said Delores “Kandee” Cleary, CWU’s vice president of inclusivity and diversity. “By embracing our differences — including gender identity and expression — we believe we can enrich and enhance the experiences of everyone in our communities.”

International Pronouns Day started in 2018 and occurs every year on the third Wednesday of October. Individuals and groups around the world will be participating in locally coordinated grassroots activities throughout the day, and most of them will be sharing their experiences on social media using the hashtag #PronounsDay.

Nametags and email signatures that display a person’s pronouns are becoming more commonplace on college campuses across Washington, and there is evidence that shows the practice is helping educate others about the value of proper pronoun usage.

“The importance of individuals defining how they choose to be identified as a part of the human race is of the utmost importance,” said Shari Clarke, EWU’s vice president for diversity and inclusion. “Every person has the right to affirm and define their own identity, and each person’s choice should be respected and adhered to by all members of society.”

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