Metro Weekly

Air Force authorizes use of pronouns, including gender-neutral ones, in official emails

Air Force officials tout authorization as a way to promote inclusion while eliminating confusion that can exist with gender-neutral names.

air force
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Will Alexander.

The U.S. Air Force has authorized the use of gender pronouns he/him, she/her, and they/them in electronic signature blocks for official email correspondence.

The update will be included in the Air Force handbook, The Tongue and Quill, which provides guidance for personnel on writing and speaking, according to an Air Force memorandum issued on Dec. 9.

“An inclusive force is a mission-ready force, and I’m thankful to the LGBTQ Initiative Team for helping us realize this opportunity to be a more inclusive force,” Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones said in a statement.

The LGBTQ Initiative Team was created earlier this year to identify and resolve issues impeding the success of LGBTQ airmen and Guardians, or Space Force personnel.

Lt. Col. Bree Fram, a co-lead of the initiative team, said the change was driven “by awareness of a restrictive policy that was being used against transgender Airmen and Guardians who were authentically representing themselves,” reports the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

The Dec. 9 memorandum, which spells out how to appropriately close an email, was sent to major commands and other Air Force agencies.

According to the memo, the signature block should only include the sender’s name, rank, service affiliation, duty title, organization name, phone numbers and social media contact information. Airmen and Guardians are prohibited from adding slogans, quotes or other personalization to an official email or social media signature block.

Regarding pronouns, an airman or Guardian may opt to include them, either placed immediately after the name in parentheses or on separate lines within the signature block. However, no one will be required to include their pronouns.

An email from the Air Force’s director of diversity and inclusion that was posted over the weekend on the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page says the changes “address multiple concerns from our Airmen and Guardians and promote a more inclusive environment.”

See also: Joe Biden nominates Gina Ortiz Jones, lesbian veteran, as Under Secretary of the Air Force

The email claims the new guidance “promotes greater respect for and recognition of an individual’s identity,” while also noting that not all names are “Anglo/Western” and that some names, regardless of the person’s gender identity, are gender-neutral.

The email also says that the use of pronouns “facilitates addressing unfamiliar names and mitigates common confusion with electronic communications.”

Many of the more than 400 comments on the Facebook post blasted the change as unnecessary and a sign of caving to political correctness, with some arguing the military should be focused on more pressing issues regarding national security or the mental well-being of troops, reports Stars and Stripes.

But some people with gender-neutral names expressed appreciation for the change — underscoring that the policy does not solely apply to or benefit transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming people.

“This is SO helpful. My first name is Parker so when I was (active duty) i was ALWAYS getting ‘Sir.’ So this is great!” one commenter wrote in response to the Facebook post.

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