Many people may have heard the phrase that ends with “but, words will never hurt me.” While the sentiment behind the phrase is well intended, the truth is the words we say to one another are one way to show our respect.
One way to do this is by trying to use inclusive, gender-neutral language. Gender-neutral language helps ensure all people, regardless of their gender identity or expression, feel included no matter where they are.
In honor of Pride Month, the PRIDE employee resource group (ERG) at Children’s Minnesota provided the following examples of how to be more inclusive and gender-neutral during everyday conversations:
- Instead of saying, “Hey guys”, or “Hello ladies” consider, “Hi folks” or “Hello friends” to be gender inclusive.
- Instead of saying “What does your husband do?” or “You’re married! Tell me about your wife,” try using “Tell me about your spouse” or “I’d love to learn more about your partner” to be inclusive of LGBTQ relationships.
- When asking kids about their families, instead of saying “Mom and Dad,” trying saying, “parents” or “grown-ups” to be inclusive of the multiple ways that love makes a family.
- Introduce yourself with your name and preferred pronouns and then ask colleagues, friends and patients, “What’s your name?” and “What pronouns do you use?”
- Everyone makes mistakes. If you mistakenly misgender someone the best advice is to apologize and move on.
- Instead of using words such as “waiter” or “waitress,” use the gender-neutral job title of “server.” Another example would be using “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess” in the airline industry. Inclusive language avoids using gendered job titles.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released guidance called Words Matter to address the use of anti-biased and inclusive language to help promote diversity, inclusion and equity. In addition to gender and gender identity, the guidance includes tips for when talking about disability, race and ethnicity.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) offers a Glossary of Terms on its website to give people the words and meanings to help make conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity or expression easier and more comfortable.