While many individuals on social media have taken to adding their preferred gender pronouns into their existing profile bios, Instagram has taken that concept one step further, launching a new feature that officially builds a person’s pronoun selection into their account setup.
Samantha Kubota of The Today Show has reported that “instead of having users take up limited character space in their bio, Instagram is now letting them select their pronouns in a specific section of their profile.”
In the new feature, users of the social media platform can select from a variety of pronouns such as he/him, she/her or they/them. Once an option is selected, those pronouns will appear in small gray letters next to their user’s name.
As Kubota explained, “‘They’ is often used as a singular pronoun for a person ‘whose gender is intentionally not revealed’ or ‘to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary,’ according to Merriam-Webster. Kubota also noted that Merriam-Webster selected “they” as its word of the year in 2019.
Kubota also reported that “Instagram isn’t the only platform making changes to allow people to choose their preferred pronouns. After President Joe Biden took office in January, WhiteHouse.gov updated its contact form to include gender-inclusive pronouns and prefixes. The move was praised by leaders in the LGBTQ community at the time.”
In a statement released earlier this year, GLAAD president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said, “pronouns matter and adding inclusive pronouns to a contact form is more than just a demonstration of allyship. Research has shown that recognition and respect of our pronouns can make all the difference for our health and well-being — especially when it comes to LGBTQ youth.”
According to data from the Trevor Project, while gender identity matters to everyone, it’s especially important to young LGBTQ individuals who are most likely to spend time on social media channels. The nonprofit group estimates that 1 in 4 LGBTQ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that “fall outside of the binary construction of gender.”
In a report outlining those findings, the Trevor Project wrote, “although LGBTQ youth are using pronouns in nuanced ways, the majority who use pronouns outside of the gender binary use either familiar pronouns or combinations of these familiar pronouns to express their gender. An individual’s pronoun expression, or even the decision to avoid them altogether, is a very important reflection of a person’s identity. Respecting pronouns is part of creating a supportive and accepting environment, which impacts well-being and reduces suicide risk.”
While the new Instagram feature is currently only available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, the company has said it plans to continue expanding the option to other regions in the coming months.