Language is a powerful tool. It provides specificity and enables us to understand each other and the world around us. But our use of language can also either hinder or foster inclusivity.
LGBTQIA+ inclusive language, in simple terms, is a language that doesn’t make assumptions or include negativity about those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The purpose of integrating inclusive language into the environment isn’t to police or monitor words – but to bring a sense of openness, curiosity, and respect to conversations. By choosing to empower people with our words, we are sending a message that we value and respect the people around us.
Inclusive language is only one part, but a critical part, of a cultural shift that will take time, but also results in a more diverse and welcoming environment.
Like any other skill, learning to use LGBTQIA+ inclusive language requires practice and conscious effort.
Here are some tips to consider
1. Use gender-neutral language
Gender-neutral language is a generic term covering the use of non-sexist language, inclusive language, or gender-fair language. The purpose of gender-neutral language is to avoid word choices that may be interpreted as biased, discriminatory, or demeaning by implying that one sex or social gender is the norm. Using gender-fair and inclusive language also helps reduce gender stereotyping promotes social change, and contributes to achieving gender equality (EU Parliament, 2018).
By using gender-neutral language, we are intentionally choosing to be inclusive of all people, acknowledging that everyone is different, and demonstrating our commitment to supporting and respecting our LGBTQIA+ colleagues.
Here are some examples of how to use gender-inclusive language;
- Rather than asking if someone has a boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife, we can refer to them as a significant other, partner, or spouse.
- Instead of saying “ladies and gentlemen” or “you guys,” we can say “everyone” or “all.”
- If you are unsure of someone’s gender identity, “they” is an acceptable singular gender-
neutral pronoun, and is in fact used in practice at many national publications in formal writing.
2. Use correct gender pronouns
Gender pronouns are words that people use to refer to others without using their names. Using a person’s correct pronouns fosters an inclusive environment and affirms a person’s gender identity (Medical News Today, 2021).
Misgendering a person, which refers to using the incorrect pronoun, can be offensive and harmful. One 2016 study found that affirming a person’s pronoun raises self-esteem and
It is possible to unintentionally misgender a person. To avoid misgendering people, a great start is to normalize sharing your own pronoun with others. This can help you become more conscious of gender pronouns. It can also be encouraging, making it possible for other people to freely share their gender pronouns with you.
Another helpful start is to begin to identify your own patterns. Consider and pay attention to how you engage with people in verbal interactions. Notice any unintentional assumptions you make and project onto others. Do you often use ‘him’ or ‘her’ without knowing if that’s their correct pronoun? Identifying your own patterns and intentionally adjusting them can be beneficial for you and for the people around you.
Here are some commonly used pronouns;
– He laughed with his friends, enjoying himself.
– She laughed with her friends, enjoying herself.
– They laughed with their friends, enjoying themself.
Here are some pronouns people also use, this list is non-exhaustive;
– Ze laughed with zir friends, enjoying zirself.
– Xie laughed with hire friends, enjoying hirself.
– Co laughed with co friends, enjoying coself.
3. Learn from mistakes
We all make mistakes. Being committed to building an inclusive workplace means that you are willing to engage in the process of learning and unlearning.
When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologise, and move forward. Mistakes can also be useful in helping you become more conscious of your use of language toward people in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The most important thing is to be open to learning from people and remain respectful to others throughout the process.