Do I Really Need to State My Pronouns?

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My firm asked all employees to add our pronouns to our email signatures to promote inclusivity. So, I did: “He/him/his.” I am in sales and send out hundreds of outreach emails every week. Today, a potential customer replied: “Not interested.” He said he was “turned off by the unnecessary pronoun thing.” I support inclusivity. But this interaction made me wonder about the risks and rewards of my company’s policy. My email signature isn’t suddenly going to make anyone more welcoming to nonbinary people. But some may be turned off by it. And I don’t think leaving off my pronouns would offend anyone. Am I wrong?


You and I have different concerns about your firm’s policy. For cisgender people — whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth — there is practically no cost to including pronouns. (I’ll come back to your sales pitches.) For trans or nonbinary people who aren’t ready to come out, though, this policy is problematic: It pressures people to either out themselves before they’re comfortable or lie.

Now, your firm’s intentions are clearly good. Including pronouns may not suddenly change people’s minds, as you say, but it’s a useful reminder to avoid making assumptions and to address people correctly. It may also make it easier for some trans and nonbinary people to come out. A better guideline would ask you to consider including your pronouns. (For many, an employer’s direct request means: “Do it — or else!”)

As for lost sales, I assume your firm weighed the value of inclusivity against possible backlash before they instituted the policy. Report this episode to your manager if you like. And if you’re comfortable doing so, please share my concern about pressuring employees to share sensitive information. I applaud the spirit of your firm’s policy, but I think it could use some fine-tuning.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

My sister is refusing the Covid vaccine. Her adult children are having a birthday celebration for their children, but my nieces (the hosts) are refusing to tell invitees whether they are vaccinated or will be by party time. They say they don’t want to upset their mother. The party will be held indoors, and the number of guests will exceed the current limit on indoor gatherings in our state. I know some guests will not wear masks. My husband wants to go; he feels as if he’s already missed out on too much family time. If we don’t go, it will be a blow to relations with my sister and her family, which have always been great until the pandemic. Is this a lost cause?


Disagreements don’t have to be lost causes. And avoiding them is no reason to humor people (who are making bad choices) or put ourselves at risk. I sympathize with your nieces’ predicament with their mother, but wise people are making decisions about parties based on data points now: vaccination status, the size of indoor gatherings and mask use. It’s disingenuous to pretend these facts don’t matter!

Call your nieces and your sister. Say: “You know I love you, but we’re handling the pandemic differently. I won’t be able to see you indoors until the C.D.C. tells us it’s safe to gather in large groups with unvaccinated and unmasked people. I’m sorry that I’ll miss your party.”

This is an even-tempered approach to a problem that’s beyond your power to fix. And I trust that your husband’s totally understandable desire to mingle again will be outweighed by the real-world prospects of becoming ill or infecting others with the virus.

My husband and I are expecting our first baby this summer. My in-laws, who have no Italian heritage, have selected Italian names for our baby to call them: Nonno and Nonna. My husband and I are very uncomfortable with this. We think it’s cultural appropriation. What should we do?


At a glance, this seems more like cultural appreciation than appropriation to me. If there is any disrespect of Italian culture or failure to acknowledge the source of the names here, it isn’t immediately apparent.

Perhaps the best litmus test for questions like these is: Would an Italian object? I doubt it. Appropriation is thorny, though. Why not ask your in-laws how they landed on the names before you decide what to do?

I had an allergic reaction to an expensive face mask, so the manufacturer sent me several to make up for it. I mentioned this to my friend. She asked for one. Thinking I had a half-dozen, I said yes. But it turns out, I only have three, and I don’t want to give one to her. I spoke in haste. (This is a person who often fails to follow through on promises like “I’ll take you to lunch for your birthday.”) What should I do?


A promise made is a debt unpaid. Give her a mask. This will remind you not to speak in haste the next time. It’s also a bad idea to rationalize poor behavior by pointing to the failures of others. But feel free to remind your grabby friend that you’re ready for that birthday lunch now!

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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