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Preferred Pronoun Policy

Policy on Preferred Gender Pronouns

Effective August 1, 2016

Otis College of Art and Design is committed to fostering an inclusive campus that values self-expression and respect for the variety of communities it serves. The College recognizes that each of our students, faculty and staff may choose either a binary (him/her) or non-binary gender pronoun.  Therefore, the Otis College community is committed to respecting chosen preferred gender pronouns (PGPs).  As a community, we understand that changes to traditions and habits take time and practice.  We strive to patiently work together to respect and use preferred gender pronouns at Otis College.

In addition, some students, faculty and staff may choose to use a preferred first name (see Preferred First Name Policy).


This guide serves as an educational resource for the entire community so that we can continue to be an inclusive and sensitive campus.

What is a preferred gender pronoun (PGP)?

A preferred gender pronoun, or PGP, is simply the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about them. We all have preferred gender pronouns that we feel best represent us.

What are some currently used English pronouns?

She, her, hers and he, him, his are common gender pronouns in English. These particular pronouns are binary. Some of us feel comfortable with the binary pronouns assigned to us at birth.  Others of us identify with a gender that is different than the one assigned at birth and may choose a different pronoun accordingly.  Binary pronouns may not accurately represent the gender identity of some individuals, including  gender nonconforming individuals.

Many individuals use the following non-binary pronouns instead:


They, them, theirs.

(yes, “they” can be used in the singular).

Harley has volunteered to be a driver for the field trip because they have an SUV.


Ze/Xe, Zir/Xir.       

Harley forgot zir drawing pad.  Ze needs to borrow some paper.

Just my name please! 

Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all.

Harley wants to gain job experience, so Harley wishes to find an internship while studying at Otis.

Never, ever refer to a person as “it” or “he-she” (unless they specifically ask you to.)

“It” and “he-she” can be perceived as offensive slurs.

How can I let others know what my preferred pronoun is?

Here are two suggestions:

1. When you meet someone for the first time, introduce yourself and include your pronoun.  “Hi, I’m Andrea, and I use they/theirs.”  Or, “Nice to meet you.  I’m Dave, and I use him/his.”

2.  Include your preferred pronouns in your email signature.

Pat Johnson


CommArts/Graphic Design Junior


How do you know which pronouns a person prefers?

Correctly using a person’s preferred gender pronoun is an important way to show respect for their gender identity and to acknowledge all genders. Try asking: “What pronouns do you use?” or “Can you remind me what pronouns you use?”  The person you are speaking with will feel respected.


For faculty:  How can I use this information in how I address my students at Otis?

Here’s a suggestion:

On the first day of class, share your own preferred name and gender pronouns:

“Hi, everyone.  My preferred first name is Lenny, and my last name is Huckleberry.  My preferred gender pronouns are he-him.”

During initial introductions or first taking of attendance, ask students to share:

  1. Their preferred first name
  2. Their last name
  3. Their preferred gender pronouns

And of course, document this on your roster, and address your students as they indicated.

What if I make a mistake?  What if I use “her” instead of the person’s preferred “they”, for example.  It can be hard to remember!

Mistakes are going to happen!  Apologize, and rephrase what you were saying or asking.  The person you are speaking with or about will appreciate it.

Did you know that not all languages pose the same pronoun difficulty for genderqueer people?  For example:

In 2014, the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” was added to the Swedish dictionary - for use when the gender of a person is not known or when it is not desirable to specify them as either a "she" or "he".

Turkey does not have a system of grammatical gender and thus does not have any gender-specific pronouns.

In Japan, pronouns, while not explicitly carrying gender, can strongly imply gender based on understood levels of politeness and social formality. While 'boku' and 'ore' are traditionally known to be masculine pronouns and 'atashi' is characterized as feminine, 'boku' is considered to be less masculine to its 'ore' counterpart and often denotes a softer form of masculinity. It is often used by women who find the pronoun 'atashi' as  too feminine.

The Korean pronoun geu (그) is somewhat gender-neutral. While the gender-specific pronoun geunyeo (그녀) is often the preferred pronoun when referring to feminine nouns, geu can refer to masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns.

The Cantonese third-person-singular pronoun is keui5 (佢), and may refer to people of any gender.

The May Fourth Movement to modernize Chinese culture resulted in the gendering of the written Chinese language in order to to make it similar to gendered European languages. In spoken standard Mandarin, when the antecedent of the spoken pronoun (他) is unclear, native speakers will assume it is a male person. However, the pronoun can also mean "other" or "third person".  There is a recent trend on the Internet to write "TA" in Latin script, derived from the pinyin Romanization of Chinese, as a gender-neutral pronoun.                                                                          

(Information in the preceding section sourced from Wikipedia)