Gender Inclusive Language at Family Equality Events

We are committed to creating inclusive spaces. As such, we have drafted this guide to help our partners understand why using people’s correct pronouns and gender-inclusive language is an important tool for making a safer space for trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive/nonconforming folks.

Adapted from GLSEN’s Pronoun Guide

Thank you so much for your dedication to making Family Equality a safe, inclusive, and celebratory space for LGBTQ+ families! Many of you are likely familiar with some of these practices, but here’s a refresher!

Please review and share with anyone from your team who will be interacting with Family Equality families.

Using Pronouns

Pronouns are words we use to describe a person or group of people in place of their names. Examples of the most commonly used pronouns are: She/Her/Hers, He/Him/His, and They/Them/Theirs.  

Pronouns and gender identity are not one and the same. Gender identity is a person’s sense of being a boy, girl, woman, man, both, neither, masculine, feminine, nonbinary, and/or anywhere along the gender spectrum. Someone’s gender may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.

A few common pronouns you might encounter include:

  • He/him/his – It’s Alex’s birthday today, but he is celebrating this weekend.
  • She/her/hers – That’s my friend Corey, I hope she’s joining us! 
  • They/them/theirs – Jo is on a walk with their dog. 

Although these are fairly common, there are many other pronouns that people use, and some people choose not to use pronouns at all. 

Some people use multiple pronouns. For example:

  • They/he – His birthday is coming up, so I’m going to make them a cake!
  • She/they – They told me their favorite color is pink. I think she even has a pink car.

Since we shouldn’t assume someone’s gender based on their appearance, clothing, how they wear their hair, etc., creating opportunities for folks to share pronouns is a way to demonstrate that we aren’t making any assumptions about a person’s gender based on how they look. Sharing pronouns is one way that we can be inclusive and respectful of all genders and presentations, and it signals your support for creating inclusive spaces for transgender and nonbinary people. 

Some people might prefer to use their name only, in place of any pronouns! Here is an example of what that would sound like in use: “Jordan should be here any minute, Jordan had to make a phone call first.” 

Gender-inclusive language

Pronouns aren’t the only way we make assumptions about gender! Think about the language you use to refer to individuals or groups of people. Are there ways to make those gender-neutral? 

  • Instead of “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls,” try “everyone,” “friends and honored guests,” etc. 
  • Instead of “you guys,” try “y’all” or “folks.”
  • Many of us have been taught that it is polite and respectful to use honorifics like Mr./Mrs., or ma’am and sir. Please don’t refer to Family Week families in this way unless you know them and know that they are comfortable being referred to as such.

Misgendering is the act of using the wrong pronouns or gender descriptors to identify someone. This can happen by accident or when we make assumptions about someone’s gender. Misgendering can also happen when we assume the identity of someone without confirming it with them (ex: We see someone and refer to them as a boy because they “look like a boy” but in fact, they identify as a girl or nonbinary, etc.).

Some of this may be new for you, and it’s understandable that you might make a mistake along the way. However, it’s important that you recognize if you have misgendered someone, and correct yourself! You can keep this short: simply apologize or thank the person for correcting you, before continuing the conversation using the person’s correct pronouns. 

Sometimes when people misgender someone and/or get their pronouns wrong, they feel a need to over-explain or share reasons for their mistake. Most people who get misgendered prefer that rather than listening to an explanation that the person simply apologize and continue on with the conversation at hand.

Family Equality values all individuals and families. We sincerely thank you for your continued awareness, understanding, and support of our agreements and values.