To celebrate Pride Month, we are releasing a series on the LGBTQ+ experience in the workplace. To help both employers and employees understand how to support LGBTQ+ equality. Last week we discussed coming out at work and how to handle that potentially challenging experience. This week, we focus on employers and those wanting to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.
One of the most important things a person can do to be LGBTQ+ inclusive is using the correct language. In this article, we will focus on four things to remember to make your language more inclusive to LGBTQ+ people.
Gender-neutral partner terms
It is normal to want to discuss a person’s living set up in the workplace, especially a close colleague. However, to be inclusive to LGBTQ+ people, make sure you don’t assume the gender of a person’s partner when speaking to them. The easiest way to do this is to use a gender-neutral term such as a partner instead of wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. The person you are speaking to can then tell you the gender of their partner if they wish to. Further, it’s important not to slip into a heteronormative mindset at work and assume that everybody is in a traditional relationship or family dynamic.
A person’s gender pronouns are how they want to be referred to by others concerning their gender. For example, a person that identifies as a woman will use she/her pronouns. The most inclusive thing you can do if you don’t know a person’s pronouns is to use the neutral ‘they’; this way, you won’t accidentally misgender a person. It’s important to remember that you can’t assume a person’s pronouns just by looking at them. Using your pronouns in emails and meetings is an excellent way to get into the habit of not assuming a person’s pronouns are apparent.
It’s important to be aware of the different abbreviations that people within the LGBTQ+ community use to represent themselves. The most common acronyms are:
– LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
– LGBTQ+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning
– LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Ally
Different people choose to use different acronyms. In the workplace, you should be aware that different staff members may use different ones. Here at Aspiring to Include, we use LGBTQ+ as the ‘+’ represents the other identities that are not commonly included in the acronym. If you choose to use the LGBTQ+ acronym in your business, it can be a good idea to explain which you have chosen and why.
Suppose a member of your team is going through a process of gender reassignment, meaning they are taking steps to live in a gender that most reflects how they feel and not the sex they were assigned at birth. In that case, you mustn’t use the wrong language. While it may be tempting to refer to a person’s sex as the gender they ‘used’ to be, this is incorrect and can be offensive to many transgender people who have never identified with that gender.
For example, if you have a female transgender colleague (somebody who was assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman), it would be wrong to say that she used to be male as she may never feel that she was male and has always identified as being female.
For more help with language and the words, we choose to use here at Aspiring to Include, head over to our glossary. If you feel that we could use words to be more inclusive, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.