Supporting Chosen Names and Pronouns

group selfie at the 2018 pride parade

At Johns Hopkins University, students, faculty, and staff are provided with the option to identify themselves using a chosen first name within select university systems. Chosen name can be elected at

A chosen or preferred name is the use of a first, middle and/or last name that is different from a person’s legal name. There are many reasons why someone would use a chosen name, such as a reflection of gender identity, as a nickname, or as a westernized or Americanized name.

Once specified, a chosen name will replace legal name in select university system user interfaces unless the system requires the use of legal name. Support for chosen middle and last names will be implemented starting in the Spring 2022 semester. Chosen first name (previously referred to as preferred first name) is currently used in select university system user interfaces, usually in addition to legal first name. As systems are modified to support chosen middle and last names, chosen first name will replace legal first name in the interface, if applicable. This page will be updated as systems are modified.

JHU reserves the right to remove a chosen name for any reason, including misrepresentation or the use of inappropriate, offensive or derogatory language.

This information applies to all schools and campuses at JHU, and for students, faculty and staff, except where indicated.

For more information, read the university policy on chosen names.

Using Chosen Names

  • Wherever possible, use someone’s chosen name. This includes casual conversation, email communication, and formal settings.
  • If you are creating a registration/signup form, allow the use of chosen name only, unless there is some specific reason you need access to someone’s legal name.
  • Depending on which platforms you use, you may have access to a student or colleague’s legal name. Treat this as confidential data and do not employ it unless there is a specific need for it to be used.
  • There may be circumstances (e.g. when conducting a background check, dealing with financial records, or sending postal mail) when a legal name is required. Limit the use of that name to those circumstances.
  • There may be times (e.g. when contacting family members or writing letters of recommendation) when someone may not want the chosen name used. If you are hesitant about a particular context, you can ask privately if there is an exception to using the chosen
  • In most circumstances, someone’s JHED (e.g. jhopkin1) will stay static, so you can reliably use that to identify a record in SIS or other platforms even if the chosen name is not visible/searchable.

Chosen Name Use in Systems

Over the last several years, Johns Hopkins University has committed to, and implemented, policies to support transgender and non-binary individuals, including the use of chosen names and pronouns in many of our information and academic systems.

For detailed information on how to specify your chosen name and obtain a JHU badge, please click here.

Please contact us if you have a question about a particular system, office, or process.

Using Pronouns

Pronouns are how we refer to each other in the third person. You cannot guess someone’s gender or pronouns by their appearance! Here are a few answers to questions related to pronouns.

Also, you can PDF Document: download a PDF with helpful thoughts about pronouns.

Why Care about Pronouns?

Why focus on pronouns?

You can’t always tell someone’s gender by looking at them. Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is respectful and creates an inclusive environment.

Who might use gender neutral pronouns?

People who may not identify as strictly a woman or a man, such as non-binary. It may also be good to use neutral pronouns when you do not know what the person would prefer.

What are some examples of gender neutral pronouns?

There are many, but here are some examples: they, them, theirs; xe, xir, xirs; ze, zir, zirs.

Is singular ‘they’ grammatically correct?

Yes. The Washington Post style guide, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and the Oxford Dictionary all recognize the singular “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun.

Why are gender neutral/gender inclusive pronouns important?

Using someone’s pronouns accurately shows respect and acceptance.

How to Use Pronouns

Who do I ask about their pronouns?

Ideally everyone. Asking people about their pronouns is an excellent practice that doesn’t single out non gender conforming, trans, genderfluid, or other gender minorities.

How do I ask which pronouns to use when speaking with or about someone?

If possible, introduce yourself first. For example, “Hi, my name is Kat and my pronouns are they, them and their. What would you like me to call you?”

What if I ask someone their pronouns and they ask why?

Give them an example, such as: someone with the name Elizabeth may go by Liz or Beth and I just want to make sure I use the right one to show respect.

How can I use pronouns in my work or academic setting?

Share your own pronouns and ask others to share their pronouns with the group or you individually.

How can I support people who use multiple pronouns?

Some people do use multiple sets of pronouns. Read this article from them. magazine that combines perspectives from 10 different people on their multiple pronoun usage. How To Affirm the People in Your Life Who Use Multiple Sets of Pronouns

How can I use pronouns in healthcare settings?

Relationships in healthcare are unique and require a great deal of trust. Make a point of asking a patient’s pronouns and name they go by, ideally at first introduction, and use the information at each subsequent interaction.

Troubleshooting with Pronouns

What if I accidently use the wrong pronoun for someone?

Apologize briefly, use the correct pronoun and move on. Try not to repeat the mistake again in the future.

What if I witness someone else using the wrong pronouns?

If appropriate, gently correct the speaker using the person’s correct pronouns such as stating “Oh, you mean when SHE went to the store.” Check in with the misgendered person as needed.

What if someone repeatedly uses a person’s incorrect pronouns or name, despite being informed?

Don’t ignore the situation. Elevate the issue to the appropriate leadership in your area.

Why is it important not to refer to someone by their birthname (sometimes referred to as ‘deadname’) or gender if it is not their stated name or gender?

Using a former name or gender assigned at birth denies a person of their true identity. This can be painful and bring about mistrust.

My childhood friend transitioned from male to female. If I am sharing a story about her as a child, which gender should I use.

Generally, use the gender the person identifies with currently. If unsure, use a gender neutral pronoun.

How do I know if I am using discriminatory language?

Avoid using outdated and offensive terms such as tranny, it, or shim. The word “queer” is a generally an acceptable term for younger generations, but may be seen as derogatory to older people.

What if someone is hesitant to share their pronouns?

Provide a safe space for individuals to feel comfortable sharing their pronouns. One way to accomplish this is to introduce yourself with your pronouns: “Hi, I’m J.D. and my pronouns are they/them/theirs.” If an individual is still reluctant to share, it is important to respect individual wishes regarding pronoun usage since there are a variety of reasons why individuals choose to share or not share their pronouns.

How do I share my pronouns on various computer platforms?

We’re working on this. More to come soon, we hope!

How can I promote proper pronoun usage with colleagues?

When appropriate, start meetings with introductions including names and pronouns. Consider adding your pronouns to your email signature, name plate, business card, or nametag.

Should I add my pronouns to my email signature?

Many people add their pronouns to their email signature. For example:

Helen Dibble

Administrative Coordinator

she/her/hers pronouns

When would it be inappropriate to ask about pronouns?

When singling out or second-guessing the gender pronouns of a person who appears to be non-binary or transgender, or if there is a risk of inadvertently outing someone.