The University of Colorado Boulder claims that misgendering someone can be an “act of violence.”
CU Boulder’s “Pride Office” argues on the university’s website that deliberately ignoring someone’s pronouns can be an oppressive and even violent act.
“Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression but can also be considered an act of violence,” reads a page titled “Pronouns.”
“When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking for you to respect their identity,” the page says. “It is never safe to assume someone’s gender and living a life where people will naturally assume the correct pronouns for you is a privilege that not everyone experiences.”
The “Pronouns” page says the information was “created by students, for students.”
People should introduce themselves with their own pronouns so “everyone you meet knows that you’re a safe space and that you won’t assume a person’s pronouns,” the students say on the “Pronouns” page.
The students go on to tell readers that if they do not know someone’s pronouns, they should use “gender-neutral ones, like they or ze.” The page also explains how to use new pronouns like “ze” and “hir.”
Even asking someone their pronouns is not always the right move, the students say, because it’s better if “gender non-conforming people come out with their own pronouns on their own terms.”
Using the wrong pronoun, even by accident, leads to “dysphoria, exclusion and alienation,” the page says. If someone else uses the wrong pronouns, you should step in and correct them, the students add.
“The mark of a true ally is never giving up on the people you want to help,” the students say. “Plus, gender non-conforming people tend to get tired of always correcting other people, so having a friend to help is amazing.”
If you do use someone’s pronoun incorrectly, you should apologize but not “make it a big deal,” the students say.
“As long as you portray that you are sorry and you try harder next time, it’s going to be OK,” the page says.
“Knowing a person’s pronouns is not the most important thing in the world but respecting a person is, so try not to demand something of someone when they’re not comfortable giving it,” the students say.
CU Boulder is a public university that is part of the University of Colorado system, which has four schools in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and a medical campus in Aurora.
The school has nearly 31,000 undergraduates and ranks number 97 on the U.S. News and World Report’s Best National Universities list.
Over the last year, more universities have been moving to allow students to officially register using their preferred pronouns.
Harvard made the change last year, allowing students to choose newly-invented pronouns like “ze” or even sets of pronouns like both “he” and “they.”
Thousands of public K-12 schools also have policies allowing minor students to use preferred pronouns in school, in many cases requiring school staff to hide a student’s gender identity change from parents.