Supporting Preferred Names and Pronouns
This page is designed to give guidance to anyone with questions about how to respectfully use preferred names and pronouns. A preferred name (sometimes known as a chosen name, a nickname, or a name-in-use) is the use of a name, usually a first name, that is different from a person’s legal name. There are many reasons why someone may use a preferred name. While the most visible may be to reflect gender identity, other reasons why someone might use a preferred name include using a nickname, going by an Americanized name, or distinguishing oneself from someone with a similar name.
For faculty and staff, using appropriate names and pronouns is an important way of establishing norms of respect with the students you work with. For everyone, using appropriate names and pronouns signals your willingness to be inclusive to everyone.
For more about supporting transgender people, read our introduction. And read this article on how to support trans people in the classroom.
Using Preferred Names
- Wherever possible, use someone’s preferred name. This includes casual conversation, email communication, and formal settings.
- If you are creating a registration/signup form, allow the use of preferred 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 preferred name used. If you are hesitant about a particular context, you can ask privately if there is an exception to using the preferred name.
- 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 preferred name is not visible/searchable.
- It is a good idea to ask “What pronoun do you use?” when you meet someone for the first time. You can also ask people to share pronouns when they fill out a registration form or information sheet.
- You can make it easy for people to share their pronouns with you by sharing your own pronoun verbally and in your email signature. For example, “I am Dr. Eric Smith. You can call me Eric, and I use he/him/his pronouns.”
- When facilitating a small group discussion, ask people to share their pronouns along with their names as a part of the discussion. For example, “Let’s go around the group and do introductions. Please share your name, your major, and your pronoun. I’ll start. My name is Yvonne, I’m in BME, and I use they/them/theirs.”
- If you make a mistake, correct yourself as quickly as possible and try not to repeat the mistake. If you hear someone else use an incorrect pronoun, simply correct them by saying “I think that Clarissa uses she/her/hers for her pronouns.”
- We’ve created a PDF Document: PDF Document: pronoun guide you can print and share. We also have pronoun buttons available.
Preferred Name Use in Systems
Certain systems use preferred names and others do not have that function. You can see a list of computer systems and their use of preferred name on the Homewood registrar’s site. Please contact us if you have a question about a particular system, office, or process.