'Pronoun badges' being handed out to Edinburgh University students during Welcome Week

(Photo: Unsplash/Element5 Digital)

Officials at Edinburgh University's student union will be handing out pronoun badges to students so that they can know whether to refer to others as 'he', 'she' or 'they'.

The badges will be available from the Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) during Welcome Week, which starts on Monday.

Announcing the plans on Twitter, EUSA's vice president of welfare, Kai O'Doherty also encouraged students to read the EUSA's guide to sharing pronouns, which tells students that traditional pronouns can be 'frustrating and harmful' for people who are transgender. 

'If we choose to make assumptions about which pronouns are correct, we risk misgendering people and/or singling out trans people who want to clarify their pronouns,' the guide states.

The guide encourages students to say 'welcome everybody' instead of using 'gendered terms' like 'welcome ladies and gentlemen' and to introduce themselves in group settings by stating their names, pronouns, and where they're from.

It also encourages students to include their pronouns in their email signatures and to avoid asking people for their 'preferred pronouns' because this can 'isolate and alienate' trans people.

'Some people may find sharing their pronouns confusing and instead say something like, "I prefer male pronouns." or "I'm a woman, so..." While this is understandable, it's important to challenge the idea that pronouns are an indicator of gender, or vice versa,' the guide states.

'If someone does say this in a round of introductions, you can gently remind them that pronouns are not inherently linked to gender so it would be great if they could share their pronouns too and perhaps remind them of the most common choices.'

The pronoun badges have drawn some opposition, though. Writing in The Sun, deputy editor of current affairs website Spiked, Tom Slater called the plans 'invasive'. 

'The pronoun-badge scheme is just the latest mad PC policy to come out of ­student life, in which the uptight policing of what people can say and do has become the norm,' he said.

And a Facebook poll by youth website The Tab found more people against the idea than in favour, with 81 per cent of the 5,000 people polled voting against the pronoun badges. 

Christian Concern responded to the pronoun badges by saying that Christians must speak the truth compassionately but 'uncompromisingly.'

'The 'politically correct police' are looking to enforce lying about who people are with bullying and intimidation. It is time to commit to truthfulness in all our speech,' it said

Earlier this year, Brighton & Hove City Council distributed pronoun badges as part of Trans Day of Visibility on 30 March. Some of the badges said 'please use my name' while others were left blank for wearers to write in their own identity.

At the time Councillor Emma Daniel said: 'We define our own gender and we should respect other people's identities and rights.'