It is always important that we use inclusive terms in the workplace. Not doing so can be a very harmful impact on many people around us.
Some people find it difficult to know which terms they can and can’t use in reference to the LGBTQ+ community. Others may use terms that are now considered outdated and offensive. The best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page is to do your reading on what is currently considered appropriate. There is always room for improvement and learning for everyone.
In this blog, we are going to help you out with that. Whether you are an employer wanting to make sure all of your material is inclusive, or whether you are an employee looking to be more supportive of those around you, this blog will help you learn about appropriate and contemporary terms you can use, with some brief guidance on what to stay away from too.
Let’s get started.
First things first, LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ is the most updated version of the acronym used to refer to the queer community. It includes: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and a ‘+’ sign for extra terms left open for interpretation.
Some people also use the acronym LGBTQIA which specifically includes intersex and asexual identities.
Either of these terms is commonly accepted and appreciated. Using them makes sure that the wide range of the sexuality and gender spectrum is represented.
On a similar note, queer is used to refer to a range of non-heterosexual identities. Many people prefer this term over a specific term such as lesbian or bisexual as they think it is more fluid and accessible to a wider audience. It focuses less on labelling and allows more room for a variety of identities.
Some people may also use “genderqueer” to describe any gender identity that isn’t cisgender and cisgender-presenting.
People who identify as non-binary don’t feel that they are either male or female. This means they don’t put themselves in any one gender box and they don’t dress, act, or identify as if they are in either binary category. They identify as free from any gender constraints or rules.
Non-binary people can also prefer terms such as gender non-conforming, agender, and genderqueer.
Pronouns are the terms we use to refer to other people when we aren’t using their names. They typically include he/she/they but there are less frequently used terms rising in popularity including ze/zie and xe.
The pronouns we use are in relation to our gender identity. For example, if we identify as a female and are female-presenting, then we will typically use the pronouns she/her. This means we would like people to use these pronouns when referring to us.
If we are referring to a non-binary person, we should use the terms they/them. These are gender-neutral pronouns preferred by non-binary and often trans people too. They/them pronouns are also a good option to use if you aren’t sure what pronouns someone prefers as they are the most neutral option.
It can be very helpful for cisgender people to use pronouns in their bios/email signatures/on badges at work. This helps to normalise pronoun use and make it easier for all people to be referred to as they would like at work.
Asexual is a term used to describe someone who has no sexual attraction to anyone else of any gender. They may still experience romantic feelings for other people and they may still be in monogamous relationships. However, they do not identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or so on, as they feel no sexual attraction at all.
Cisgender is a term used to describe someone who presents and identifies as the gender and/or sex they were identified as at birth. So, if someone was born female and still identifies as female, they are cisgender. This is in comparison to someone who is transgender.
This term is often shortened to “cis”, as in a “cis person”.
The term deadnaming refers to the practice of using someone’s name assigned to them at birth after they have transitioned and started to use a new name. Deadnaming can happen accidentally or on purpose. Either way, it is something damaging and upsetting for trans people and should be avoided. We should always use the name someone has told us they prefer to use.
The term gender reassignment refers to the process by which someone changes their presenting gender, typically through surgical means. Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act of 2010, which means it is something specifically protected from work-based discrimination.
On a similar note, gender-affirming surgery is often the term used to describe any surgery associated with gender reassignment. As transgender people believe they are not “changing” or “swapping” genders but rather undergoing medical procedures to reaffirm the gender they truly are in their minds and hearts, “gender-affirming” can be a more appropriate term.
An ally is someone who stands up and speaks up for people around them when those people are of a different gender/sexuality or orientation. For example, if a trans woman continues to be spoken over in work meetings and a cis man speaks up about it on her behalf, he is using his male-presenting privilege to be an ally.
Allyship is essential for the LGBTQ+ community. Especially at work. Being an ally is something that should be supported and celebrated in all work environments.
Gender dysphoria is a sense of unhappiness and/or distress at the “mismatch” between someone’s internal and external gender presentations. For example, someone who is trans but has not yet changed how they present themselves to the world and sticks by their assigned gender at birth may feel gender dysphoria towards their current looks and presentation.
Gender dysphoria can be a serious issue. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. It is something that we should be on the lookout for at work so we can support our trans employees and colleagues.
Intersectionality is a term used to describe the situation in which someone is part of more than one minority group. An intersectional person fits into multiple social categories, and they are usually categories that have historically been discriminated against. For example, a black trans woman, a Hispanic non-binary person, a gay Asian man, a disabled lesbian, and so on.
Intersectionality is a complex and delicate issue. We should all be aware of how intersectionality can complicate issues of discrimination and diversity at work.
You can check out specific information on intersectionality in our post.
Find More Inclusion at Work
If you want to be a more inclusive employer, or you are a diverse job seeker looking for a more inclusive work environment, you can find it all on Aspiring to Include.
Our inclusive job board helps to connect diverse job seekers with employers offering the right opportunities and environments.