Health Professional News

Gender health: Use chosen pronouns for more inclusive care 

Choosing a name and pronouns is one way that some transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people express themselves and embody their true identities. In a health care setting, it’s imperative for clinicians to earn the trust of their patients and their families, so being aware of the pronouns people choose for themselves can make everyone feel more welcome, included, and supported. Addressing someone by the name and pronouns they’ve chosen for themselves demonstrates dignity and respect. 

Introductions with pronouns

For many adults, it can feel strange to introduce yourself by your name and your pronouns, but for a lot of adolescents this is already very common in their social and peer groups. Adolescents and teens are exploring their identities, and many understand there’s a gender spectrum. They might already be used to sharing their pronouns and asking others how they identify. 
In new patient meetings clinicians can simply say: “Hi, my name is [your name], and I use [she/they/he] pronouns.” Then ask everyone in the room to share their name and pronoun(s) as well. This normalizes the practice and does not single out the patient. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t offer their pronouns, don’t be afraid to ask them directly:What pronouns do you use?”

Idea: Use pronoun and name tags in hospitals and clinics 

In 2022, two employees, Steph Romero, clinical support associate, and Erin Januschka, clinical educator, at Children’s Minnesota launched a project to encourage care teams to ask patients their preferred names and pronouns during their first meeting. Then they add a pronoun “tag” to the whiteboard in the patient’s room so the rest of the care team could refer to the patient correctly every time they entered. 

Nurses are also encouraged to offer a name wrist band with their patient’s chosen name and pronouns on it. Patients still must wear their hospital name band with their MRN, scanning codes, etc. but because some gender diverse and transgender patients don’t identify with their legal name and they might not like to wear it. Using a blank name band to write their chosen name and pronouns is a simple way to remedy this and provide more inclusive care.

Respectful and possibly lifesaving

Using a chosen name and correct pronouns can have enormous mental health benefits for patients. One study found that using a chosen name in a single context is associated with a 29% decrease in suicidal ideation and a 56% decrease in suicidal behavior.  

“Using chosen names and correct pronouns for trans youth is incredibly important because it helps youth feel seen and understood for who they are,” said Dr. Katy Miller, adolescent health medical director and gender health provider at Children’s Minnesota. “Using chosen names and correct pronouns isn’t just polite; it’s lifesaving.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association also endorse medical care and treatments for transgender patients, saying such care saves lives. Elevating conversations about gender identity and normalizing the use of chosen pronouns in health care settings can lead to a more inclusive care experience and, ultimately, greater understanding and acceptance of transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive young people.

Gender health at Children’s Minnesota

All kids deserve to grow up happy, healthy, safe, and strong, including transgender and gender diverse youth. The Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota is exclusively pediatric and includes a multi-disciplinary team of physicians specializing in pediatric gender health, endocrinology, gynecology, psychiatry and a mental health team with psychologists and a clinical social worker. More information is available here.  
Talking Pediatrics is a podcast produced by Children’s Minnesota and hosted by Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd (they/them), medical director of the Gender Health program and chief education officer at Children’s Minnesota. In the podcast episode, Breaking the binary: Expanding gender identity and expression, Dr. Goepferd explores gender binary and the importance of expanding gender expression. Read more about this episode here.

Mai Songsawatwong