What pronoun should I use if I do not know the gender identity of the person I am writing about?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Do not use a pronoun in such cases. If a last name is given, repeat the person’s last name on subsequent mentions in your paper. If a last name is not given, continue to use the person’s first name. When possible, find a way to vary references by substituting generic nouns. For example, “the author,” “the survey respondent,” “the speaker,” and so on.