Like our site's new design? In April 2023, Circa was acquired by Mitratech.
>> Learn More

Today we are celebrating all nonbinary people.

First, check out this comprehensive post from Healthline written by Mere Abrams. They provide a lot of information here, but I want to emphasize a few points before moving into the meat of this post:

There are, of course, a million things to talk about with the topic of nonbinary people. Check out this HRC post celebrating diversity of nonbinary people, or this video of nonbinary people talking about what their identity means to them. I really encourage you to explore and listen to people you might not hear from in your everyday life.

Today’s big focus is Gendered Language: what it means, why it hurts, and how to avoid it and be a better ally to nonbinary people (and everyone!) around you. I wanted to focus on this after noticing in meetings how much we are all working so hard to avoid the use of “you guys”. Occasionally a “ladies and gentlemen” sneaks in there as well — hopefully this post helps us move past both of those options and into the world of Gender Neutral Language!

Here’s a short video about language from Calgary Pride.

In it, they talk about the diversity of genders on the spectrum, the importance of respecting pronouns, and using gender neutral language as the default. The biggest takeaway is to prioritize gender neutral language when you’re addressing a group, a stranger, or anyone you’re not sure the gender of. Personally, I try to use gender neutral language exclusively to be safe.

 So how is it harmful?

Forbes explains here.

“For those who don’t fall neatly into the male or female categories, these constant references to the binary male and female groupings can be alienating. Even for those who do identify as male or female, these constant reminders of gender may have an impact.  Constantly dividing everyone into male and female categories may make us perceive men and women as more different than we really are.

Lera Boroditsky, a professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD writes, “Even what might be deemed frivolous aspects of language can have far-reaching subconscious effects on how we see the world.” In some languages, where all objects are classified as masculine or feminine, she has found that this classification actually impacts how people perceive the object. For example, when German and Spanish speakers were asked to describe a key, which is masculine in German, but feminine in Spanish, their response reflected this difference. Germans used much more masculine terms like “jagged”, “serrated,” “hard” and “metal” to describe a key, and Spanish speakers used more feminine terms like “little,” “shiny,” “golden” and “intricate.” The responses reversed for the word “bridge” which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish. Others have found that countries that speak more gendered language have less gender equality.”

Interesting, right? Furthermore, not only does gendered language promote inequality/difference of meaning, but misgendering people is considered an act of violence. Being misgendered constantly greatly contributes to increased rates of suicide among trans and nonbinary individuals.

So here’s how we get started.

Taken from this article, here are:

10 Ways to Step Up as an Ally to Nonbinary People.

  1. Introduce yourself with your name and pronoun. Stating your pronouns reminds people that it might not always be immediately obvious what pronoun someone uses.
  2. Put your pronouns in your email signature or social media profile.
  3. Instead of addressing groups of people with binary language such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’, try more inclusive alternatives such as ‘folks’, ‘pals’ or ‘everyone’.
  4. Use words that define the relationship instead of the relationship and gender. For example, use ‘parents’, ‘partner’, ‘children’ or ‘siblings’.
  5. Not everyone is comfortable with gendered titles such as ‘Ms’ or ‘Mr’. Titles are not always necessary, but if they must be used it’s good to provide alternative ones such as ‘Mx’ (pronounced mix or mux).
  6. Use the singular ‘their’ instead of ‘his/her’ in letters and other forms of writing, i.e. ‘when a colleague finishes their work’ as opposed to ‘when a colleague finishes his/her work’.
  7. Not everyone necessarily uses ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns and it’s important to be respectful of people who use different pronouns. The most common gender-neutral pronoun is the singular ‘they’ (they/them/theirs). Using people’s correct pronouns shows that you respect them and who they are.
  8. Using the pronoun ‘they’ is very useful when someone’s gender or identity is unknown. You will often already be using it without realizing, i.e. ‘somebody left their hat, I wonder if they will come back to get it’.
  9. Make sure that your workplace, school and college policies and documents use inclusive language, i.e. using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’ and avoiding sentences that imply two genders. Where specifically talking about gender identity, make sure it is inclusive of non-binary gender identities and not just trans men and trans women.
  10. When highlighting LGBT people in your events or as role models, make sure you include some non-binary role models too!


DEI Council

Skip to content