Why Quinn Kirby Uses Pronouns in their Photography Business
Did you know that Sprout Studio is the only CRM to offer custom pronoun fields in our software? We felt that simply having this feature available wasn't enough; we felt responsible to help photographers understand the importance of normalizing pronoun use in their business.
In case you missed it, learn why photographers are adding pronouns in their business for more context on the topics discussed here.
Jules, our Partnership and Outreach Coordinator, interviewed 5 Sprout Studio users who each incorporate pronouns in their photography business.
One of the photographers interviewed is Quinn Kirby (they/them)…
Content Warning: this article references subject matter pertaining to suicide.
Who is Quinn?
Quinn Kirby (they/them) is a photographer who originally called Grand Rapids, Michigan home. However, this interview took place right as Quinn was moving to Pittsburgh, which they describe as a “welcomed challenge.”
Quinn's original career path also looked a bit different when it began, first with aspirations of becoming a director, then pursuing photojournalism.
Photojournalism was fulfilling for Quinn's compassionate spirit, but the emotional strength required to portray such difficult topics was not sustainable long-term. Quinn knew their heart was in the right place but needed a slight pivot.
Quinn shifted their thinking from trying to tell a broad story with photos to “how can I get to know people more intimately on an individual basis?”
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That change in approach led Quinn to where they are now, photographing the endeavors of small business owners and uplifting other artists through impactful images. An equally fulfilling path for someone with such creative passion.
Just as Quinn is currently welcoming the challenge of moving to a different state, they have also welcomed many other challenges through life; switching careers, becoming an entrepreneur, and most significantly – celebrating themselves as non-binary.
Quinn provides us with incredible insight into the power that pronouns hold in their own life and the lives of many others. Quinn's story is an important reminder that in order to live a life that's true to who you are, you must accept all parts of who you are.
The Power of Pronouns
Being open about your pronouns not only helps to create a more genuine connection with clients, it also validates them as human beings. Quinn shares the value of having their own pronouns visible throughout their branding:
“I strive to be transparent with my brand and since I am the face of my company, it just makes sense for me to be transparent about who I am as well.
Sharing my pronouns on the social platforms that provide that feature, sharing them in my “About Me” page on my website and in my email signature are subtle ways to indicate that I celebrate my existence.
It’s allowed me to show up as the best version of myself for my clients.”
One of the first steps to normalizing pronoun use in your photography business begins with visibility, like including them in your business model. Quinn explains that asking clients for their pronouns in advance helps to ensure a safe environment, both for themselves and potential leads:
“Currently I have a space in the contact forms on my site where folks are required to share their pronouns in case I run into a potential lead who uses that section to be abrasive. That’ll immediately be a red flag. I like to know those sort of things before I consider working with someone for safety reasons”
“I think having the acknowledgment of preferred pronouns there shows people in the best way that you don't make any assumptions about who they are.”
Quinn describes the fear of being unaccepted that many people who use non-binary pronouns often feel, explaining a few instances where having their pronouns visible has helped clients feel more comfortable working with them:
“One of my clients mentioned that when they first came out, they weren’t great with correcting folks who knew their correct pronouns and still misgendered them. Since they believe that photography is meant to be an authentic record of their life, they wanted to choose a photographer who had a mutual understanding of how affirming it is to be seen as the gender they are because they knew they weren’t going to have to pretend to be someone they’re not in front of the camera.”
“Another person, Charlie (they/he), chose me as the photographer for his top surgery reveal because we go back a ways and came out around the same time.”
“Photography is one of the most authentic records of life and if someone's uncomfortable it's gonna show.”
Quinn touched on the topic of why pronoun use is important for everyone:
“All people, including those who are cisgender and heterosexual, use pronouns. They don’t just have to be she/her or he/him, the overall culture and language we use as a society currently flags the sharing of pronouns, especially “they/them” and neopronouns, as inherently being queer.”
“With me, that would be correct, and that’s the experience I’m speaking on. I just don’t want to give the impression that everyone who shares their pronouns are trans, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming.
When speaking on the feedback that Quinn has received about pronoun use in their business, they expand on the importance of having a community of people supporting them for being queer, not because it defines their business – but because it adds to it:
“Others have shared with me that, while they aren’t part of the queer community, choosing me for the work I create came with the added bonus of supporting a queer-owned business.”I want to be chosen for my photography skills and the style that I provide. Me being non-binary and supporting a queer business is a just a plus to it.”
“I’ve had people say that they’re glad that sharing pronouns has become more normalized because they feel more comfortable and feel like they’re co-creating those safe spaces.”
“And I feel very lucky to have an audience and clients who not only are paying attention and support me, but are also doing the work on their own too.”
Quinn feels that portraying yourself and your business in the most authentic way you can, oftentimes ends up being the best way to capture authentic photos of your clients:
“It goes both ways, my clients aren't going to move with direction as best they can if they're not comfortable with me and I am not going to direct them, be completely myself, be the best version of myself and get them the pictures they deserve if I am not completely honest about who I am exactly.”
“I want to be completely authentic with people because if I'm not, that's not the best version of me.”
“I gave a presentation on the basics of creating a creative business and we were talking about unique selling propositions. I spoke about how I want to be the most transparent with my branding as possible, but when I first thought of being a transparent photography company, I didn't realize that that would be attached to my face. So as I've kind of come to terms with the fact that I have to be a public-facing part of my brand, I've had to celebrate myself more.”
“I want to be completely authentic with people because if I'm not, that's not the best version of me.”
Quinn expands on their own struggles of being misgendered, often occurring in social settings:
“There's fear of like, what if there's backlash? I live in the real world, I know that not everybody is going to be like, oh cool, and immediately switch it.”
“I still struggle with asserting my pronouns because I'm very visibly fem and I struggle with social dysphoria more than I do body dysphoria. So when I'm misgendered, it adds to it.”
“It's hard to advocate for yourself in a lot of situations, especially with something like this”
The Hard Truths
When Quinn was asked how they would explain the importance of honoring pronouns to someone who may not understand, the conversation opened up difficult topics that may be upsetting to read. Please be advised that the following discussion pertains to suicide.
Quinn asked us if we were familiar with The Trevor Project – a non-profit organization that advocates for suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth (learn more about The Trevor Project here).
Quinn explains the gut-wrenching statistics the organization found, which show suicide attempts among youth directly correlate to having their pronouns respected:
“According to a 2021 survey by The Trevor Project, suicide attempt rates are reduced by 11% in households where trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming youth had their pronouns respected by all parties versus households where the individual’s pronouns weren’t respected at all.”
“The same survey reported that suicide attempt rates are reduced by 13% in youth allowed to change their legal documents to correctly reflect their gender versus youth who were not.”
“Keep in mind this survey reflects only suicide attempts. Respecting the pronouns of trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming youth can be a life-or-death situation. Their pronouns should not factor into whether they get to see adulthood or not.”
“Their pronouns should not factor into whether they get to see adulthood or not.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please visit https://www.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines
Quinn then speaks on the fact that as someone who came out as an adult, they can't imagine the added layer of difficulty that children face in coming out:
“I realized I was gender queer after becoming an adult and luckily I'm not part of that group.”
“But I don't know how I would deal with that if I had realized it earlier. I was struggling hard enough going, oh maybe I'm not straight, and if I had also realized that I wasn't a woman in the mix…it's a lot.”
“Whenever I hear people talking about, ‘well I was raised to think there were just men and women,' I'm like, me too! And look how I turned out. It's not just necessarily unlearning, it's…I hate this phrase, but opening up to it.”
“If I had stayed closed off from everything, my mental health probably would have been still down in the dumps, wondering what was “wrong”, with me when there wasn't anything.”
We asked if there was anything Quinn wanted to leave readers to think about at the end of the interview, to which they said:
“I think that while people are getting a little more used to pronouns, I would challenge others to also get familiar with neo pronouns. I'm still learning a lot about them myself.
“To get to the point where it's normalized, we need to be treated as human beings.”
“We're just like everybody, but there's a marginalization happening so we're not. It shouldn't be an us vs. them kind of thing. It's just everyone coexisting together.”
Quinn's interview left us with one thing in mind, the same thought that inspired The Pronoun Project; we must all commit to doing better, together.
Other Impactful Stories
See four other impactful stories from photographers who have personal experiences with pronoun use in their business and life below!