I have an academic conference coming up, and on the registration site we are instructed to optionally enter a personal gender pronoun (PGP) to appear on our name tags. To enter it or not to enter it?


My personal view is the following: if someone does include a PGP on their tag, then I understand that they'd like me to know something about their identity in order to respectfully converse with/about them. In the case that that person does use an non-standard pronoun (if that's the right terminology), then this offers them what is already privileged to those whose gender is aligned with societal assumptions (e.g. a white male who identifies as a man and uses the PGP "he/his", like me) to not have to make their identity a point of conversation at the outset of any interaction. So, I respect and appreciate that the organizing committee is being progressive and inclusive in this sense.

As for myself, I don't have any desire to include my PGP on the name tag. I simply don't have a very strong sense of identity, and don't think of the self in those terms. I realize that there is a painfully obvious response to this; I don't have to worry about it because I already conform to societal assumptions about gender anyway. I have the privilege of knowing that no one is going to call me "she" by accident. But, if I ask myself if I would strongly object if someone did... I dunno, I suppose I'd prefer that didn't happen.

We can look at another dimension of identity, ethnicity, to try and isolate exactly what I'm saying. I'm Italian, which means I have dark skin and hair. Fairly often in life I've encountered people who make the false assumption that I'm actually Mexican or middle eastern. I may correct them if it was appropriate to do so, but really I've never been offended or uncomfortable by it; I simply don't care enough about identity. If there was an optional field for filling in your ethnicity on a conference nametag, I wouldn't have any desire to complete that either, even though I do know that mine is often mistaken.

A potential flaw with this analogy is that gender is ubiquitous in conversation. The same is not true of ethnicity necessarily. Still, all I mean is that I don't feel compelled to broadcast anything about my identity as a pretext to interaction. If someone wants to learn about who I am, they can speak to me. It wouldn't make me more comfortable to walk around knowing that information about my identity can be obtained on sight (be it gender or anything else).


I do not want to be misunderstood as attempting to assert my beliefs onto others. Even though I don't put strong value in identity, I'm not saying that identity is objectively not valuable; I respect that to some people identity is of enormous value, and I appreciate that those people put their PGP on their name tag so that I can treat them the way they'd like to be treated.


Now, my real question is not necessarily about the agreeableness of the position I've described above (though I'm happy to discuss it). Rather, I'd like to ask if the act of omitting the PGP from the name tag itself, even if well motivated/justified, is inadvertently signaling any disrespect. At the last one of these conferences, the vast majority of people did include the PGP. Now, I don't feel compelled to conform for conformity's sake, but I also don't want to give the false impression that I'm a proponent of gender binarism.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. (Also see the meta FAQ.)
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:16
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    Can't see why everyone would need pgp. With a name on the tag, what's wrong with using that name. Fred said so and so. It was Fred's comment I picked up on. With no pgp it works.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 11:04
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    Your question does not make it clear what your feelings are one way or the other. You start out by saying you "simply don't have a very strong sense of identity", but you also feel the need to point out you're an Italian male and you'd refer not to be misidentified. It's this duality that results in the wide range of different answers I'm afraid.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 11:29

14 Answers 14


It seems to me that the way to signal respect is, quite simply, by literally respecting people’s choice as to how they wish to present themselves to the world. So I’d advise you to take care to refer to people using their preferred pronoun as they chose to list it on their name tag (or using common sense if no pronoun is indicated). And don’t insult or think ill of anyone for making a choice that you disagree with regarding their pronoun, or regarding a choice not to list a pronoun for that matter.

While this advice may seem too obvious to be helpful, my point is that you are also entitled to the same respect that I just advised you to accord others. When you fill that form, you are choosing how you wish to present yourself to the world. Any choice that you make is 100% legitimate and deserves to be respected, including not wanting to list a pronoun. You don’t owe anyone a reason or an explanation of what (if anything) you are trying to “signal”. And anyone who professes to support other people’s rights to choose a pronoun to describe themselves, by extension supports your right to describe yourself however you choose to. Thus, I don’t see how any such person can take offense to your decision without being inconsistent and somewhat of a hypocrite. It doesn’t mean there aren’t such people who would find a way to imbue your action with a meaning it doesn’t have and take offense, but if there are I’m pretty sure you can safely ignore them, or, better yet, if challenged by them you can easily (and in a friendly way, I suggest) explain to them why they are misguided to be offended.

Edit: To address some of what’s been said in the comments and other answers, here are a couple more thoughts that occurred to me:

  1. Someone (@vaelus) said my answer sidesteps the question since it focuses on whether people should be offended, but “doesn't advise on how likely it actually is for people to be offended.” That is correct. The reason why I chose to focus on this aspect is that there are situations where any action we take is likely to offend or annoy someone. Arguably most of life is like that, since the world unfortunately has many unreasonable people. Here too, I expect that some people will likely be annoyed also by the inclusion of pronouns on name tags, and might specifically be annoyed with OP if they were to take the action of including one. So it’s a Catch 22, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t sort of situation. Therefore in my opinion the correct way to make decisions about tricky dilemmas like this is to base your actions on logic, and to be at peace with your own choices and be prepared to defend them if challenged. “Will people be offended?” is simply the wrong question to ask.

  2. A lot of people are focusing on what OP will be “signaling” with each of the various choices that are available to them. And yet I find it amusing and interesting that almost everyone with an opinion is reading the “signal” a bit differently from everyone else. So, if the signal is such that 10 people look at it and each one is “reading” a different meaning into it (and appearing pretty confident that their reading is the correct one) isn’t that a sign that there actually isn’t any signal there to interpret, or that if there is then it is an extremely weak one at best? (Moreover, this is after we read OP’s very detailed explanation of what their opinion actually is! No signal is even necessary in this case.) So again, I think the focus on the signal is misguided. As @vladhagen said in another answer, the pronoun field is optional, and optional means precisely that. The only signal that not including a pronoun legitimately sends is “I chose to exercise my right not to include a pronoun.”

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. (Also see the meta FAQ.)
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:17

At the last one of these conferences, the vast majority of people did include the PGP.

I suspect your refusal in this might come off more of rejecting the idea of PGPs rather than choosing not to have your own, which is at least mildly rude.

You describe yourself as looking like a cishet man (I don't have to worry about it because I already conform to societal assumptions about gender anyway. I have the privilege of knowing that no one is going to call me "she" by accident.), which - fairly or unfairy - I think would make people more likely to interpret a blank gender field as a rejection, rather than "no pronoun preferred." You may have to be explicity about your support for PGPs.

I'm curious, what would you do if you were in a meeting and everyone went around and said "names and pronouns please"? Would you still say "I don't care, call me what you want"?

but I also don't want to give the false impression that I'm a proponent of gender binarism.

Putting either binary pronoun down wouldn't be seen as an endorsement of gender binarism. As far as I know, there are not separate pronouns for people who are proponents of a gender sepectrum yet identify as a member of the traditional genders.

Still, all I mean is that I don't feel compelled to broadcast anything about my identity as a pretext to interaction. If someone wants to learn about who I am, they can speak to me

Yet, you do plan on wearing a nametag with your name on it, right?

On the whole, I wouldn't go so far as to say leaving an optional field blank is disrespectful (if it was mandatory, I would say it was rude), but if only for the first reason, I suggest you do it.

Keep in mind that normalizing sharing pronouns is as much for your comfort as for those who feel compelled to share theirs, either because theirs are unusual or because they don't look "typically" masculine or feminine. The reason we go around in a meeting and ask for pronouns is so one trans person (for example) doesn't feel called out because they chose to name their pronouns, but no one else did.

You say you don't have the desire to include a PGP on your nametag. Unless you truly desire not to have one, put one on. Maybe try "they," if you don't feel "he" works for you.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. (Also see the meta FAQ.)
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:19
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    Folks - please use Academia Chat (or the specific chat room for this question) for longer, non-clarifying discussion. Enormous off-topic comment threads make it very difficult for visitors to determine if the comments are useful or just noise.
    – eykanal
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 21:27

In the case that that person does use an non-standard pronoun (if that's the right terminology), then this offers them what is already privileged to those whose gender is aligned with societal assumptions (e.g. a white male who identifies as a man and uses the PGP "he/his", like me) to not have to make their identity a point of conversation at the outset of any interaction

People with non-binary pronouns do benefit from this kind of measure, but it's also helpful for some people who do have "he" or "she" pronouns which are not immediately obvious. This can include transgender people and those who are just plain androgynous.

I used to get addressed as "ma'am" on a regular basis. On one occasion when travelling in the USA they selected me for a random search and called for a female officer, even though they could have just looked at my ticket to see my first name. It still happens occasionally in my forties. I'm not bothered by it, but other people might be, and in my experience the people who make the mistake are often mortified when they realise. Pronoun badges etc. can help avoid that kind of awkwardness.

However, if only the non-gender-conforming people are wearing pronoun badges (or stating their pronouns in online profiles, etc. etc.) that can become uncomfortable. Being NGC is sometimes risky - I've been yelled at in public by a stranger who was angry because he couldn't immediately tell my gender, stared at for using the "wrong bathroom", and plenty of folk have had far worse experiences. When other folk also use pronoun badges/etc. it helps defuse this; it establishes the idea that giving your pronouns is a normal thing and doesn't have to flag you as a weirdo.

So, if you do choose to include your pronouns on your badge, you will be helping to make things a little more comfortable for the folk who need to include them.

But if the vast majority of folk at this conference are doing it, then one more or less is unlikely to make much difference, and it's unlikely that anybody would take it as an affront. What's important is that it's common practice, not that it's universal.

  • That is awful, being yelled at in public. I too find others getting my pronouns wrong and that is frequently from foreigners in forums, who presume my gender by my interest in male-dominated sciences. I rarely correct them. Others correct them for me. :)
    – user92331
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 4:28

One of the strongest things you can do as a privileged ally is to use your position of privilege to erode systems of oppression.

While being explicit about your PGPs are optional for this conference, that optionality is really only available to folks in a position of privilege. Your ability to say "I don't have to worry about it" is not something available to others.

I think that leaving your PGP blank sends a signal that you're comfortable with your privilege. Taking the opportunity to normalize the sharing of PGPs and thereby drawing others into what is "normal" seems to be a signal more in line with the views that you expressed regarding inclusivity.

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    This one. Offering your preferred pronouns signals that you respect your colleagues pronoun choices. Whether you feel like you should or not, doing so anyway (at no cost to you) sets an example that others will hopefully follow.
    – kmm
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:53

Not really disrespectful, but perhaps inadvertently signalling that you yourself don't have to worry about such things, because society's default works for you. Or, as often happens, signalling that due to your good fortune you are oblivious to the whole issue, etc. If you'd like to instead signal your awareness, I'd think do indicate your preferred pronouns.

(For what it's worth, I need to get around to systematically doing this on my web pages...)

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    How would you advise OP to behave if they don’t want to “signal” anything?
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:52
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    @PatrickB. But not wanting to signal something doesn't mean they want to signal its opposite. This answer tells OP how to signal the oppsite, but does not tell OP how to not signal anything.
    – JiK
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 1:31
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    @ClimbsRocks I'd advise against putting something unusual or jokey in place of a PGP, since that could easily be interpreted as making fun of or trivializing them. It could also communicate something inaccurate (e.g., someone might read "X" as "agender"). In general, putting something unusual in the PGP field or leaving it blank will call much more attention to your decision than simply putting the pronoun you actually use, which most people will find unremarkable.
    – Patrick B.
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 3:09
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    @DanRomik: at a conference where everybody is asked to put their preferred gender pronoun to put on a visible tag to wear, I don't think not signalling anything is possible. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 8:47
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    @RemcoGerlich perhaps, but this is not such a conference. This is a conference where everyone is given the option to include a pronoun.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 19:14

Any time we visibly violate a social norm, other people notice, and will interpret that non-comformity through their own lens of understanding.

Whether abstaining from the practice is worth the possible misinterpretations is an individual judgment of conscience and practicality.

Leaving the information out is signalling something, however inadvertently. Exactly what is open to interpretation, but it is a signal. Moreover if, as you say, the majority of participants are including the information then including the information has become a social norm for this event. That means that omitting the information would violate this social norm, and including it would conform to the norm. In these circumstances, the signal sent by omitting pronouns from your name tag will be much stronger than the signal sent by including the information.

As an analogy, consider names. I'm not particularly attached to my given name. I don't hate it and don't have a better name in mind, I just don't identify with it very strongly. If people misspell it or mispronounce it or mistake it for something else it doesn't really bother me. I guess you could say I don't think of myself in terms of my name. But if I'm at an event where given names on name tags are the norm I still write it on a tag and slap it on my shoulder. Omitting the name tag would be confusing and potentially disconcerting to other people who are looking for that information. Wearing a name tag but leaving it blank would be even worse: that clearly looks like a STATEMENT of some sort, even if I only meant that "you can call me anything, just don't call me late for dinner" as my grandfather liked to say. Using my title and/or surname likely looks stuffy.

Now, names are not a highly contentious and emotive topic in my area, so at best I would be considered eccentric for omitting my given name, and at worst a crank or a snob. On the other hand, when I do include my name no one assumes that I am making a strong statement in favor of my name or declaring, with Andrew Carnegie, "that a person's name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language." As one person-wearing-a-name tag in a sea of others, the main thing I've signaled is "here is a person who knows the name tag etiquette of this event, whose name is ___."

In the case of personal pronouns, the topic is currently contentious and emotive. That means that if you omit the information when most others are including it the perceived message is likely to be more contentious. At best people might assume you are oblivious, at worst that you are actively dismissive or contemptuous of the practice. You may find people gently asking if you've forgotten something, or becoming slightly cooler to you after glancing at your tag—or sidling up to you to "commiserate" about the horrible practice of including pronouns on name tags.

If you do include the information, you will also be signalling something. If you were the only person at the event to include pronouns on your name tag then that inclusion would be a violation of the event's norms. In that case, the message might be interpreted as a protest against gender binarism or a personal quirk, or could just be baffling for individuals who have never seen the practice. But in this case you would be conforming to the social norm, which generally goes unnoticed—when was the last time you looked up in class and thought "Hey! That person is wearing pants! And SHOES!!!"1? So for the vast majority of conference attendees, the message you convey by including pronouns would simply be "here is a person who understands the name tag etiquette of this event, and who prefers ___ pronouns."

1 Unless, of course, you come from a place where "pants" means the intimate garment worn under clothing or the norm is some type of clothing other than western dress or are a time-traveller from the Victorian era, in which case seeing a (female) student in pants might well be a shocking violation of the social norm.

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    The main difference between names and pronouns is that in overwhelming majority of cases the pronoun can be inferred by simple observation, whereas a name cannot, so the pronoun information is almost always redundant and unnecessary, while the name one is almost always necessary (for strangers at least)
    – Maxim
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 21:05
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    @Maxim In a community where folks are trying hard not to make assumptions about gender, pronouns become much less obvious and more necessary in order for strangers to feel comfortable addressing you. However, the larger point is that failing to conform to a social norm is more likely to be perceived as an overt message than conforming to that norm, and that message may not be the intended one. Whether the benefits of avoiding the norm (in terms of staying true to conscience, for example) outweigh the potential drawbacks of other folks' reactions isn't something we can answer for the OP.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 22:42
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    As a less "logical" example: At my institution, we're supposed to wear our school's color on Wednesdays. About half the staff, almost all of the administrators, and maybe ten percent of faculty do so. In that atmosphere, I feel comfortable not wearing the color (it's not my favorite or most flattering color), and no one ever questions me about it. But if "the vast majority" of faculty, students, and staff were participating, I'd have to think harder about whether my dislike of the color was worth the message(s) I would be sending by not wearing it.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 22:47
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    Good points, and good comments, @1006a. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 23:12
  • With the clarification it makes more sense, I find that for me at least the "orange" example conveys the message more clearly, as it helps focus on conformity vs non-conformity and not on the nature of the act itself
    – Maxim
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 0:03

I don't think it's disrespectful to leave it blank.

However, it doesn't cost you anything to fill it in, and by filling it in you are demonstrating that you think that it is a reasonable question and supporting the right of others, who may want to write something more surprising, to do so.

Hence, unless you feel strongly that this question should not be asked, I recommend filling it in as a supportive / ally action.

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    Absolutely this! If the OP doesn't feel strongly about the issue, it would be helpful to others for them to put something in the blank that they are comfortable with people referring to them as (I can't imagine most people prefer others not use pronouns at all!). If only transgender/gender variant people put pronouns on, that singles them out, but if everyone does it, then it normalizes it and makes it more comfortable for everyone. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 15:27
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    @called2voyage It makes it more comfortable for everyone except people who don't have a strong gender identity.
    – Swann
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 9:51
  • @soueuls That's why the answer says it's not disrespectful, but it's asking the OP to consider the benefit to the underrepresented if they don't really have an issue with it. That said, I'm not sure how uncomfortable this would really be if everyone were doing it, even to some without a strong gender identity. As I said, you do use pronouns, right? If you don't, that would be different, but as long as you use pronouns, there has to be something that you're more comfortable with being referred to as. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:48
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    @called2voyage Yes I use pronouns when I address people, depending on which language I am speaking. But I don't dehumanize my social interactions by walking around having my pronouns displayed on my chest. I heard someone advising to write down preferred pronouns on your phone book just so you don't offend anyone. I do prefer excluding myself from any of these social interactions than wasting an ounce of energy thinking about this.
    – Swann
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 14:48

It sounds like if it is optional, then it is just that: optional.

If you wrote your PGP as "he/him" maybe that would signal an even stronger belief in binary gender norms.

We can respect people who request to be called by a certain PGP. But we do not need to feel obligated to disclose our own view on the subject via means of a nametag.

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    Writing your PGP absolutely does not signal a belief in binary gender.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 3:27
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    @Dancrumb As a transgender woman, I am of the opinion that the OP is strongly signaling the OP's preference for cisgendered people by stating the OP's preferred gender pronoun. The OP is forcing a belief upon me that insinuates that I am somehow lesser because I choose not to be cisgendered.
    – Vladhagen
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 3:49
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    Then why do you want preferred gender pronouns to be displayed on badges at all, if someone else stating their preference is "forcing a belief on you that insinuates you are somehow lesser"? If you want others to call you by a particular pronoun, how is that not forcing a belief on others than insinuates something about them? This answer doesn't answer the question and with your comment it's even less clear than it was before that.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 5:06
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    @Vladhagen As someone with a number of trans* and cross-dressing friends, my trans* friends are unanimous that it wasn't a "choice", it was who they were. My CD friends are equally clear that it's something they like but they wouldn't do it full time or consider transitioning. You're free to express yourself how you want, of course, but your selection of words there could be misunderstood. And militant anti-binaryism does not fit with you considering it a "choice".
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 8:34
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    @Graham the whole "choice" narrative is a contentious one among transgender people. The fact is, for some people "it wasn't a choice" fits very well, and for some people it's more complicated than that, and enforcing a single narrative onto all trans people ends up erasing a lot of people's real experiences for the sake of marginal PR gains. Please don't talk over a trans person's description of their own experience, especially if you're only citing the words of your friends.
    – user371366
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:01

No, you are not disrespectful. Ideally (not in the real world, unfortunately) the only people who would object are those who would find unreasonable ways to disrespect you.

It is good that it is optional, as it should be. Everyone should have the freedom to define their own identity in these matters. If others want to define you, it isn't necessary to assist them.

Of course, this is just my opinion. But your own opinion is the one that should matter.


If it were me, I would just put the name down. I have no desire to participate in the pronoun game or over complicate things. A person's name should be perfectly sufficient for a "name" tag.


I'm not sure how so many people have missed a key part of the question: OP does not identify as a he/his. OP states so explicitly:

I simply don't have a very strong sense of identity, and don't think of the self in those terms.

Many answers assume that because OP is at home in a male body (OP's sex), OP must therefore be perfectly fine with the masculine gender (a strange set of ever-evolving societal expectations tied to behavior). But OP has gone so far as to ask this question and explicitly state distaste at writing the "default" pronoun: "I don't have any desire to include my PGP on the name tag."

OP has made it clear they identify outside of the gender binary. Now comes the tough part, because we don't have great words for that yet, and of course at this point, we're just left guessing which of the multitude of non-binary genders OP identifies as (which includes the option of not really identifying with any of them).

I'm in similar shoes myself: at home in a masculine body, entirely not at home with our society's definition of the masculine gender. I identify as genderqueer, and prefer "they/them". Since OP doesn't seem to identify that way, here are some other ideas for options that don't force much of a gender identity on OP:

  • Human
  • [Your Name]
  • Doctor / Professor / Student
  • Mathematician / Engineer / Researcher
  • Any / None
  • Ally
  • Non-binary
  • Still figuring it out
  • You can call me "he" until our society comes up with better words
  • Gender's complicated
  • ze/hir, co/cos, xe/xem/xyr, hy/hym/hys

The key part is that you don't have to write down anything you don't identify with. That's the whole point of that space- to respect people's many and varied gender identities, and to explicitly state that we're bad at knowing someone's gender identity just by looking at their physical characteristics and making assumptions.

If you spend some time looking up agender pronouns or genderqueer pronouns, you'll see there's still nothing like a consensus around this, so unfortunately, you're stuck making the decision yourelf. The closest thing I can think of to dodging the issue is Human, using your name, or Ally. Human is what I try to use for all new people I meet, and it's worked out well for me for the past few years.

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    I am skeptical about some of your suggestions (meh, emoji) as they might be perceived as ridiculing that part of the name tag – though that’s not the intention.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:04
  • yeah you really need to be careful. Trolls have managed to popularize "i identify as an attack helicopter" style mockery and it's possible well-intentioned responses could be misinterpreted as such. It's unfortunate since the thing we need right now is less policing of how people identify themselves gender-wise, but sadly this defensive reaction has ended up being necessitated by external malicious actors.
    – user371366
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:05
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    your last paragraph points out something valuable, normalizing explicitly specified pronouns does have a negative side effects for people who don't want to identify themselves with any gender. in theory the phrase "non-binary" and corresponding they/them pronouns could be a useful statement of pure non-identity perfect for such situations, but people are complicated and turns out the term fits as a positive identity for enough people that it doesn't carry that connotation. in the end we need something more complex than just "everyone say your pronouns", as good of a step as it is.
    – user371366
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:09
  • @ClimbsRocks I really like your "human" suggestion (although I share the concern that it could be misinterpreted as mockery). Grammatically, could "that human" be used exactly as a pronoun? Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 3:07

I highly doubt that anyone will take offense to you not filling out the PGP slot. If I were you and anyone came up to me and started to accuse me of being disrespectful, I'd assert that I intend no such disrespect and write them off as unreasonable (mentally, of course - heaven forbid I end up on Youtube). The conversation shouldn't start up at all if you never bring it up; you don't have to explain why you didn't fill it out, and I recommend that you don't, as no one can object if they don't know why you didn't do it.

Personally, if everyone else was filling it out, I'd think twice about leaving it blank, as that might be perceived as inflammatory.

The only thing you have to worry about would be other's potential reactions to it; morally and legally, you are in the clear. Be confident; this is only as much of an issue as you and others let it become.


For the particular situation you describe, with what I gather your motives are: I would put down a preference for a masculine pronoun.


Firstly, it may do some good. You give a good summary of why asking this question might help (I won't repeat them, but I agree) and it's not going to work if everyone abstains.

Secondly, as other have pointed out, it does no harm. It's exceptionally unlikely that anyone would read putting down a preference as being an advocate of any stance on gender. It's not like you went out of your way to insist on a pronoun. Maybe this doesn't signal the interest you clearly have in the issue (and make others stop think about it). However it doesn't give an implication to the contrary and your not going to find a response that does in a drop-down list.

Finally, refusing to answer may be interpreted in a number of ways that you have no real control over. I think the question to ask is: "do the likely interpretations line up with the views I want to portray?". This bit is very subjective, but I would say no. I would have thought it more likely that someone would perceive not answering as: "I am not interested in this. (I'll get 'he' anyway)" than "I care, and have thought about this extensively, but I was not comfortable with any of the responses". Worse, within the "I care" group the "why" is equally open to interpretation. I imagine there are as many who are mocking or subverting the intention of the question as those trying to improve it. It might be worth noting here that in polarised issues, people tend to see threats more quickly than allies. I'd be reluctant to assume people will give you the benefit of the doubt in interpreting your stance.

So, is it rude not to answer: No, there are a host of reasons not to that are not rude at all and I like to think most would see it this way. But it may well be seen as rude by some, not everyone will have thought about it in the same way.

Is it worth it? This has been answered well elsewhere but: Up to you, there are no wrong answers.

Controversy time:

If it's free text (I'll go on a limb and say it's not) what to put? I would still put he/him. There may will be the magic combination of characters instead that has the desired affect but I doubt it. If this question turns into a complex game with rules and pitfalls and "damn, that's a better answer", people will stop playing. Maybe one day ... but one step at a time.


My suggestion is that, if you really have no preference, you should enter

(no preference)

on the registration form and leave it to the organizers to figure out how to process this. This may also help clue the organizers in that the way they are doing this may not be a good fit for everyone.

However, if there are pronouns you prefer to she, either pick one, or list your top choices, e.g.


As some people have pointed out, just leaving that question blank could be construed as not being supportive of the organizers efforts. If you actual are opposed to the way this is done, and have a better suggestion, you could also communicate this to the organizers.

  • 3
    My guess is that this would make "(no preference)" appear on the conference badge.
    – Alexey B.
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 16:39
  • 3
    @AlexeyB. I wasn't sure if there would be space for that on the name tag, but if so, and if that's what the OP really prefers, isn't that a good outcome?
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 17:40
  • 4
    It's almost like OP has a preference after all. thinking emoji Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 18:22
  • 2
    I've seen "Any/All" used as a way to express "(No Preference)" online before, which I think is a good alternate way to phrase it, especially if it's obvious that it's referring to PGPs.
    – Tesset
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 22:08

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