June at Broad Street brings two important celebrations: Pentecost and Pride. God’s Holy Spirit continues to blow within every community, both inside and outside of the church, offering newness and vitality and challenge and hope.

Which brings me to pronouns.

These days pronouns are a big deal. More and more people are sharing their pronouns in professional settings. Amy, Brittany, and I share our pronouns as part of our email signatures. I identify as (she/her). We share our pronouns because they are connected to our gender identities. We also share them as an act of inclusion and advocacy.

We’re learning that gender is a continuum, which means that one’s pronouns are not confined to the binary. Traditionally, the use of pronouns has signaled one’s gender identity, but when we are willing to understand gender beyond binary, there are a variety of different pronouns available. Some people prefer to use no pronouns at all.

Being considerate of a person’s chosen use of pronouns is a way to respect the dignity and humanity of that person. It’s also a way to acknowledge how that person shows up as an individual, separate from the assumptions we make around visual and auditory markers like clothing, name, or voice inflection.

If we assume someone’s pronouns without their consent, it’s like using a wrong proper name, without them agreeing. It’s not only uncomfortable, it feels like exclusion.

As a community of faith, Broad Street extends hospitality in a multitude of ways. One way is by honoring one another’s pronouns.

A Presbyterian minister describes what it feels like to share pronouns with someone for the first time (they/them/theirs):

I felt like I was living into the language of my uniqueness that I had held in an internal chatter for so long. It was as if I was given another tool to unlock the God-designed mystery that is me for everyone else to hear and see. The use of a plural language context to refer to myself meant that I no longer had to live into the dichotomy of identity that felt perplexing, nor an assigned box that never quite fit right.

-Rev. Shanea D. Leonard

It’s important to hear that something that seems so small can make such a big difference. Part of loving our neighbor as ourselves is understanding how empowering it can feel to freely define one’s own truth in the face of the confines of societal norms. Choosing one’s own pronouns is a way of being one’s full God-given self.

Here are some examples:

  • Have you met Jordan? She also loves that restaurant.
  • Have you met Jordan? He also loves that restaurant.
  • Have you met Jordan? They also love that restaurant.
  • Have you met Jordan? Jordan also loves that restaurant.

Broad Streeters love language and many of us are grammar nerds. Honoring the pronouns of others may conflict with our long-established grammatical patterns. We may need to think before we speak. It can feel like learning a new language. We’ll all make mistakes! Mistakes are part of learning. Apologize (don’t gush) and keep trying. Honoring the pronouns of others is an act of justice and an act of care that can ripple through the generations and make space for the full inclusion and expression of all God’s beloved.


In what areas and spaces are you learning about inclusion?


-Written by Rev. Ann Palmerton

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  1. Libby Wetherholt June 1, 2022 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    So glad you mentioned being a grammar nerd. That is the hardest part for me in addition to the fact that I don’t have many acquaintances to practice on. I remember how hard it was when people were trying to have Ms become the abbreviation of choice for women instead of having to know a woman’s marital status. Also a woman at that time was known by her husband’s name–Mrs. Sam Smith rather Mrs. Sally Smith. There was much howling and gnashing of teeth with both of those changes. I would prefer to invent some gender neutral pronouns rather than using they–back to my grammar nerdiness. I’ve heard the French have invented one. Surely we can.

  2. Betty Brown June 3, 2022 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Thank you Ann for sharing this blog. I am not a grammar nerd, far from it, and one who makes grammar mistakes all the time. But I have to admit that it felt different when I was asked to to address a friend’s child as They for the first time. I had to stop, think and take that extra step to consciously say They. But as Brittany Porch shared in her presentation several weeks ago, I have to remind myself it’s not about me, but it’s about honoring, and respecting the other person. Two years later, now it seems natural to address my friend’s child as They. I still make mistakes and my kids correct and guide me. I really am so grateful to be in a community where there is effort to be inclusive, validate, and love everyone.

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