Hello fellow professors & others who might be planning first-day-of-class (or etc) introductions. If you want to be inclusive of trans/non-binary folks, can I suggest (as a trans professor with a lot of trans & non-binary students) including pronouns as *optional* rather than required?

Pronouns in go-rounds & on name-tags & etc are great in many ways, because they signal “we don’t assume anyone’s gender identity/pronouns here” and also “we’re trying to be inclusive of trans & non-binary people.”

BUT they’re also deeply uncomfortable for anyone not ready to share. I would have hated hated hated them when I was a not-yet-out-as-trans college student, and when I’ve made pronoun-sharing optional & explained why, I’ve gotten a lot of appreciation from my trans & NB students. I also dislike them now, though I appreciate the intent a lot.

If I have to be more explicit about why I don’t like mandatory pronoun sharing, it’s because A) it reifies the idea that the most important thing to know about someone is their gender and B) collapses their gender down to just do they use the pronoun you expect/think matches them.

I come out as trans on the first day in every class I teach, and when we get to them introducing themselves I tell them that pronouns are optional because I would have hated to have to do it. Instead of having everyone say name and pronouns, what I do is A) have students write down all their important info on a card, including pronouns if they want to share (and name they use, any pronunciation tips, etc), + ask them to answer some ice-breaker type questions (then I use these cards to learn their names and also for tracking attendance and participation all semester) then B) ask them to say name, class year, pronoun *if they want* and one other thing they wrote down.

I think the best approach generally (but it’ll vary by your institution’s culture & your teaching style) is probably to say something like “I’d like to invite everyone to say their name and, if you feel like sharing, also the pronouns they’d like everyone to use for them. I ask about pronouns because not everyone uses the ones others might guess based on their appearance, and I want us to be as respectful as possible of each other. But it’s fine to just give your name, too; then if we need pronouns for you we’ll probably just use ‘they.'” (But really I hardly ever actually refer to a student in the 3rd person in class, in part because even in relatively small classes I’m rarely 100% sure I remember everyone’s pronoun in the moment. I just refer to students by their names or address them in the 2nd person. So it’s really not a big deal to not know the right pronoun for someone in your class, as long as you don’t just guess and guess wrong.)