Often when writing answers or comments, I refer to some other participant as “he”, fully aware that there is a good chance I'm using the wrong pronoun for a woman. But names often don't tell much, and avatar images often less, those default avatar patterns in particular.

I'd like a way where users can voluntarily indicate their gender in their profile page. Those who do can thereby increase the chances I'll be addressing them correctly. Those who don't can't hold me responsible for guessing wrong.

Since I'm aware that gender isn't as binary as it seems at first glance, you might even label that choice as “refer to me as ‘he’ / as ‘she’ / any way you like”, which would make the intended use of that information more readily apparent. At the same time, it would become clear that there has to be no relation to “real” gender as long as the user is satisfied with the way he or she is addressed.

In Any thoughts on how to react to gender-specific language? Melanie describes the problem of being addressed as “he” despite her (at least in my culture obviously) female name. So names might be an alternative, and one answer suggests a profile picture. But names depend a lot on culture, and not everyone is happy about having a face associated with his or her name, whether it's a real face or just some generated avatar. Of course, one could always include gender information in the free form text on the profile page, but I don't read all that text hunting for that clue. So a canonical place to look, like a fixed position on the profile page, would in my opinion be better.

  • Even if users were to make their gender public, it's not to say that it will be used correctly. Currently the same goes for any of the public information in you profile (there's no need for that personal information to be accurate). As such, I don't think this implementation would be of value. Of course, that's just my opinion.
    – Werner
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:21
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    Just go with OP. "Hey OP, have you considered ...."
    – JonW
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:22
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    Somewhat related on MSO Does the SO community view itself as gender neutral?
    – Taryn
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:42
  • Since you aren't dealing with users face-to-face there is no guarantee that the gender they've specified is correct. IMO, your best best is to use terms that are non-specific.
    – Taryn
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:44
  • @JonW: Won't apply to all situations, particularly when talking to someone else. “Hey, answerer, the OP said he needs …”
    – MvG
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:49
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    Use the singular they. That's what the construct is intended for, and it works for most people.
    – J. Steen
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:54
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    @MvG “Hey, answerer, the OP said they need …” The issue is more with the English language itself not having a gender neutral pronoun rather than it being that SE doesn't have a gender identification. We don't need to know peoples gender, we just need to know how to behave politely and in a friendly manner, and 'they' is the best option we have there I think.
    – JonW
    Apr 1, 2015 at 13:57
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    Somewhat related on MSO Why Does Stack Overflow Avoid Gender in Profiles? Apr 1, 2015 at 14:20
  • @JonW Or use the generic "he". That's what I do and will do ever.
    – yo'
    Apr 1, 2015 at 15:49
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    The way the votes are going (+5, -12), I believe this suggestion won't get accepted. I'd still not delete it, but keep it to document that opinion and the various useful cross references. @J.Steen, your comment seems to be well liked, do you want to post that as an answer?
    – MvG
    Apr 1, 2015 at 19:06
  • New badge idea if this was implemented. We already have an explainer badge, could also have a Mansplainer. Feb 13, 2016 at 17:18
  • There is an emergent practice in corporate and academic cultures in the US, where in the email signature footer a "preferred pronoun of address" is supplied. I've just started to see this and am not sure if it will take hold. Not recommending it.
    – Tim
    Nov 14, 2017 at 13:25
  • Why not @username ? "Hey @xx, @yy said ..."
    – JaDogg
    Jan 31, 2019 at 11:17
  • @BhathiyaPerera That's OK for occasional use, but becomes repetitive in some sentences. And the @-mention might not be intended either, technically speaking. "As xx wrote in xx's other question, the one where xx asked about foo, xx is aware that ..." You get the picture. "As xx wrote in their other question, the one where they asked about foo, they are aware that ..." sounds better but still somewhat more artificial than the he/she version would.
    – MvG
    Feb 1, 2019 at 6:28
  • @200_success that post was recently deleted.
    – Kevin
    Oct 3, 2019 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


Instead of indicating gender (or mistaking the gender), the common practice is to use the singular they, a construct for this precise purpose. It is used "[...] to refer to a single person or an antecedent that is grammatically singular. It typically occurs with an antecedent of indeterminate gender [...].".

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