Why Gender Pronouns Matter [Infographic]
Gender Pronouns and Health Equity
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people experience more chronic health conditions and incidences of HIV, substance abuse, mental illness, and sexual violence than the general population. They also encounter more impediments to quality healthcare, including lack of insurance coverage and discriminatory barriers.
Stigma and fear of discrimination can lead transgender people to avoid seeking necessary healthcare and put their overall health at risk. Hospitals, clinics, and medical practices can signal safety and acceptance by creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals, including respecting people's gender pronouns and sharing pronouns as a matter of course.
Affirming Gender Identity with Pronouns
- Don't assume a person's gender.
When you meet someone new, stop yourself from immediately classifying that person as "male" or "female" based on how they look, sound, or dress. These assumptions arise from implicit bias, or stereotypical thinking, that comes from cognitive shortcuts the brain makes to process information quickly. Taking the time to stop and recognize biases is the first step to overcoming biased reactions and decision-making.
- Ask for gender pronouns when meeting new people.
Instead of assuming, ask people what pronouns they use. For example, "What pronouns do you use for yourself?" You may feel awkward at first, but with practice, this will become a routine "getting to know you" question.
- Share your gender pronouns—and standardize this practice in organizations.
Sharing your gender pronouns is an easy and effective way to create a shared space that is inclusive and affirming. You may think your gender pronouns are obvious, but sharing them acknowledges that gender is not apparent in one's physical presentation. Try introducing yourself by saying something like, "Hi, I'm Dr. Smith. I use the pronouns 'she' and 'her.' What about you?" On an organizational level, add gender pronouns to email signatures, team profiles, and intake forms.
- Avoid using gendered language.
Organizations should use non-gendered language in written and oral communication and provide gender-neutral facilities (such as bathrooms). Instead of addressing a group as "ladies and gentlemen," say something like "hello everyone!" Instead of writing "he or she," use "they."
- Apologize and correct yourself when you make a mistake.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, apologize and correct yourself. For example, "Sorry, I meant to say they." You don't have to get it right all the time. The important thing is to try.