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Sexplanations: On pronouns and how to effectively sexile

Sexplanations is an anonymous Q&A column meant to increase access to information regarding sex, sexual health, sexuality, relationships and the promotion of sexual respect at Grinnell College. Questions are answered collaboratively by the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC), the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) and the Office of Wellness and Prevention. Submit questions at .

Someone asked for some fun date ideas in Grinnell, on and off campus. We thought we should ask YOU! This is the last week to submit your answers via the link provided, and a $40 gift card to Prairie Canary will be given to the person with the best idea. 

Why do people often introduce themselves with pronouns on campus?


Hi They/them/theirs, 

This practice is new to many on our campus, so we appreciate your reaching out. This kind of introduction serves a few purposes, and isn’t just a Grinnell campus thing. In the past couple of years, it’s become common practice in (usually younger) queer spaces and liberal arts colleges to try to normalize including pronouns in introductions. The basic thought is that if everybody introduced themselves with pronouns, then it would be less of a burden for non-passing trans and gender nonconforming people to assert their pronouns. By non-passing, I mean people who aren’t regularly read as their actual gender (or lack thereof). In an ideal setting, this would mean that nobody would get misgendered, and that if a trans person speaks their pronouns they wouldn’t have to deal with bewildered stares. 

However, I sometimes question our campus’ focus on pronouns because I fear it excuses people from doing the real work of decolonizing gender. Instead, it further fuels a need to “know” gender, basically a synonym for policing gender. Would it not be more liberating if we accepted that we don’t need to know the gender of every person we come across and learned to use more gender neutral language? This point is tricky too, though — many women and trans folks across the spectrum fight hard for gender recognition and don’t want to be sublimated into a genderless pool. Personally, if I’m meeting someone in passing, I do not disclose my pronouns unless for some reason our first conversation is specifically about gender or trans stuff (I’m trans). Why do randos need to know my gender? 

I will close by saying that if cispeople (cis = identify with their sex/gender assigned at birth) want to disclose their pronouns in introductions, that’s fine and good because it opens up space for others to offer theirs! Just don’t ask for others’ pronouns — that can put pressure on trans people to out themselves and that’s not a cute look.

Sexiling roommates??? How do we talk about it? Where does the sexiled person go? How do you respect your roommate?


Hey Loveshacked! 

Lots of people have questions about this, so we’re glad you sent this in! Definitely set ground rules from the get go! Ask your roommate what their comfort level is with things like having other people over and being asked to leave. Even if you and your roommate have a friendly relationship, I think it’s important to establish formal guidelines about how you’ll be sharing your space. Bringing it up casually over dinner, over text, etc; it’s up to you. Just make sure the agreement is clearly understood by both of you. It is most important to honor the fact that you share this living space. If you need more support with this conversation, feel free to reach out to a CA or RLC. You might find someone at SHIC or the SRC to also be helpful.  Finding a system that works for all of you is in everyone’s best interests!

In terms of where the sexiled person can go, get creative! A friend’s room is a good possibility. You may also consider whether you need to kick your roomie out for the whole night, or even at night at all. Maybe there is a time during the day or a weeknight evening that you know your roommate will be out. Grinnell is also unique in that everyone lives close by and we don’t get kicked out of most lounges or public spaces at any given time. If you or your roomie is down for the cause, try camping out in a lounge or even a comfy couch in an academic building. Find what works for you, your partner(s) and your roommate, and if it isn’t working, speak up!   

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