The Beginner’s Guide to Gender Identity Part 2
So we’ve decided to split the beginner’s guide into two parts, so we can all digest the information better, as it is a massive topic and it’s probably new to a lot of you! So here we have part two of the beginner’s guide to gender identity! If you haven’t read part 1, then go back!
Pronouns have become a massive topic for debate over the last 2 years. Whether we should use them or not. A lot of people don’t want to use them, but we should. So let’s have a quick rundown of what they are. Pronouns are the words we use to identify someone if we’re not using a name. We use pronouns almost all the time in the English language. Examples of pronouns are he/him, she/her, and they/them. Someone can use them as one set i.e. she/her or they can use them interchangeably, i.e. he/him or they/them.
Everyone has pronouns, whether it’s she/her or he/him. Getting it right is important, as it’s a really simple way to affirm and accept someone’s identity. The ultimate goal is to help people communicate accurately and respectfully. Using the correct gender identity terms and pronouns is a crucial way to signal courtesy. It’s the same as pronouncing a person’s name correctly. Or find out how to say it.
A good habit that you could get into is asking what pronouns someone uses when you meet them. Introduce yourself and your pronouns and they can do the same. It may feel weird at first, but it can become something you do automatically. You can also use them in an email signature if you have one, personal or professional. You can use it on social media, LinkedIn has recently added that feature to their website! Or you can add them to business cards. This helps to normalise having them and talking about them.
Why they’re important
You might be thinking well, why are you telling me this? Why are they important? As we mentioned about why the language we use is important so are pronouns. Using language people ask us to is polite and just the right thing to do. Whether someone is using a new language for the first time or has been using it for years, we must make sure we are always correctly referring to them.
It may take some time to adapt to new words and phrases that someone might use about themselves. But accurately using them and moving with the changes is a great way to show them that you care about who they are, and the issues they face and that it’s an open and safe space for them to be included and equal. It’s also good manners to never assume a person’s pronouns. Using the wrong pronouns can be offensive or even harmful. Choosing to ignore them or get them wrong without acknowledgement can imply that they don’t exist and that what they’ve told you to call them doesn’t even matter.
How to be respectful with pronouns and language
There are plenty of ways someone can be respectful and inclusive to others’ pronouns. The first thing you should do is not assume someone’s pronouns. If you are not sure of their pronouns or their gender, it’s recommended that you use ‘they’. If you know their name use that as well until you know their pronouns.
It’s suggested that you use gender-neutral pronouns and gender-inclusive language. Gender-neutral/inclusive language avoids the use of masculine and feminine words and terms. To avoid bias towards either sex or gender. It removes the gendered words, in favour of the terms that are not gender-specific in any way. To be inclusive of others that don’t necessarily identify with the binary man or woman. It’s so everyone can feel included and respected in any setting, be that a workplace, school or personal life.
Examples of gender-inclusive language are:
- Folks, Everybody/one, Friends
- Colleagues, Co-workers, Workforce
- Parent(s), Sibling(s)
- Partner, Spouse, Significant other
- Students, Pupils
- Children, Kids, Teens
- Adults, Grown-ups
Some people may use different pronouns in different settings, such as work or personal life. So asking a person what their pronouns are or encouraging a space where they can introduce themselves and their pronouns and what they’d like to be called helps create a supportive and respectful environment for all.
What if you use the wrong ones?
No matter how much anyone tries to continuously get everything right every time. Mistakes are going to happen. Especially if the words are new to you and you’re still learning. What you should do if you use the wrong pronouns is; pause, apologise, correct the pronouns and carry on with the dialogue. It shows that you’re trying to make a conscious effort to be correct in the words you use and the pronouns you’ve been provided with.
However, if this is a common thing then maybe just pause before you even start the sentence. Over-apologising can be harmful to people. Especially if it happens all the time. You can also apologise in private and let the person know you’re going to do better from now on. You don’t have to over-explain, just say ‘Sorry I meant…..’ and move on.
You can take an active role in using the correct pronouns by correcting someone if they use the wrong ones. For example, if a couple of people are talking about another that’s not there and one of them uses the wrong pronouns you can speak up. It is appropriate to gently correct them about the right pronouns. Which you can do! If someone is constantly using the wrong pronouns then don’t ignore it! Regardless of the setting, you can start to be an ally by providing the correct pronouns to let that person know you are an ally and that it is a safe space.
General do’s and don’ts
Ask a person their pronouns. Practice a person’s pronouns in private so you get comfortable with the words and you reduce the risk of making mistakes. Do apologise if you make a mistake! Do use names if you don’t know pronouns. Be courteous of others. Educate yourself. If you don’t know something, learn. It’s easy to use Google and with the use of technology, it has become even easier to learn about others’ experiences.
Don’t ignore someone using the wrong pronouns! In addition, don’t assume anyone’s gender or pronouns. Don’t assume a person’s pronouns can remain the same. They can change and some people will change regularly. Don’t out anyone. This is a massive thing! It can be dangerous for some people to be open about their gender identity. Someone’s gender identity is not gossip, and don’t share it without the person’s consent. Let it come from the person itself and then if anyone is using the wrong pronouns, correct them.
The Award in LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Education
If you’re an educator or work in the education industry and want to promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity, Brooks and Kirk’s Award in LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Education CPD may be for you! This course is specifically designed to assist educators in developing the skills and knowledge required. This is to help establish inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ+ students. The course covers a variety of themes, such as LGBTQ+ terminology and identities, and the impact of discrimination on LGBTQ+ students. As well as techniques for fostering inclusive educational environments!
Enrolling on this course will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to make a positive difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ students. As well as to help build a more inclusive society. Furthermore, taking this course can help you improve your professional skills and add 1 hour of verified CPD to your CPD record.
We wanted to provide you with some LGBTQ+ charities from around the UK, so you can start to be more inclusive and do a bit more reading for yourself! Getting involved with a charity is also a brilliant way to be inclusive and become an ally. Here are a few charities we recommend!
Stonewall: At Stonewall, we stand for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people everywhere. We imagine a world where all LGBTQ+ people are free to be ourselves and can live our lives to the full.
Kaleidoscope International Trust: Kaleidoscope Trust is a UK-based charity focused on fighting for the human rights of LGBT+ people across the Commonwealth. We fund, fight for and empower those upholding the human rights of LGBT+ people by working with governments, change-makers and civil society organisations to effect meaningful and lasting change in the lives of LGBT+ people everywhere.
MindOut: We work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all LGBTQ communities and to make mental health a community concern. We recognise that our communities are wonderfully diverse and welcome all LGBTQ+ people including those who identify as asexual, aromantic, pansexual, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid and intersex. Our services are also available to those who may not identify under the LGBTQ umbrella including straight people who have sexual and/or romantic relationships with LGBTQ people.
LGBT Foundation: LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) communities.
Galop: We support LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence.
Metro: We promote health and wellbeing through our transformative services to anyone experiencing issues relating to sexuality, gender, equality, diversity and identity, and use our unique insight from these transformative services and our diverse heritage to influence decision-makers and to effect positive change.