One reason I love working in the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) field is because it continues to grow and evolve. It is exciting to consult and train in an area that does not remain stagnant, but brings new challenges each year.
One topic I have been really enjoying is the growing awareness and presence of nonbinary people and use of pronouns. In fact, last June, I got more LGBTQ Pride Month speaking requests for this topic than any other!
What is this all about? Simply put, all aspects of humanity are on a spectrum and not always one way of the other. Society in general for so long has insisted that someone is either a man or woman, is either male or female. In reality, many people deep in their core feel that are a combination of genders or no gender at all. A few years ago, this concept was referred to as “gender nonbinary,” but now the best terminology is simply “nonbinary.”
Here are some points and resources around nonbinary people:
1) There are different terms that some people use in place of nonbinary. They include Genderqueer and Gender Expansive.
2) Many nonbinary people use the pronoun “they” instead of identifying with he or she. If a nonbinary person lets you know that they use the pronoun “they,” it is respectful to then refer to them as “they” when talking about them.
3) Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary listed “they” used as singular non-gendered pronoun as their “word of the year” in 2019! Read the article here.
4) The leading LGBTQ+ Workplace Advocacy organization Out and Equal Workplace Advocate makes available a comprehensive guide for use of pronouns in the workplace. This resource (link) is focused on practical guidance for implementing successful practices and norms around pronouns in the workplace.
5) Companies and organizations wanting to attract bright young talent need to make sure the language they use in recruiting and job postings are inclusive of nonbinary people and those who support them. Instead of using “he or she” when writing about job responsibilities, simply use “they.”
6) Even when speaking to an audience, starting off with “ladies and gentlemen” is not inclusive. It is better to address an audience with “Greetings distinguished guests” or “Hello everyone!” In her new book “Inclusive 360 – Proven Solutions for an Equitable Organization” (read my blog about this fantastic book), Bernadette Smith gives lots of advice for interacting with nonbinary employees and customers.
Bottom line – it is all about respect! There should be no difficulty in treating people and addressing people are they want to be treated and addressed.
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Do please be in touch ([email protected]) if I can provide a training session for your team on use of pronouns. I love speaking on this topic. Thanks! Stan Kimer (he / him)