Making Spaces Inclusive
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We live in a society where it is assumed people are straight and cis unless told otherwise, so in everyday conversation people sometimes assume another person’s gender or the gender of the people they are attracted to. It can feel uncomfortable and difficult to correct a person about your LGBT+ identity, especially if you have just met them or you are in a situation where you are already feeling uncomfortable, such as your first day at a new school, the first time you meet your new caseworker, etc.
You cannot tell a person is LGBT+; LGBT+ people do not dress, act or look different to non-LGBT+ people and so it is important to avoid making assumptions about anyone’s gender identity or sexuality when you meet them.
We encourage you to avoid gendered language. With individuals you may misgender them or their partner, and with groups you may exclude non-binary and agender people who aren’t represented in phrases such as ‘ladies and gentleman’. Below we have put together some words you can use in place of gendered terms.
‘Boys and girls’
‘Boys and girls’ excludes the non-binary and agender members of the group. And with terms like ‘guys’ and ‘ladies’ you may unintentionally misgender someone.
Instead, you can use terms like ‘folks’, ‘everybody’, or the collective name for a group such as ‘Year 2’.
Enquiring as to somebody’s relationship status is a perfectly usual thing to do, but making assumptions about who their partner might be, could be embarrassing. Avoid gendering the person’s partner until you know the gender identity of their partner and how they describe their relationship, otherwise you may misgender them.
Terms like ‘partner’ and phrases such as ‘the person you are in a relationship with’ are gender neutral and professional.
‘When you’re older and have a boyfriend’
Young people feel the weight of expectations, so use terms like ‘when you’re older and you’re in a relationship’. This is more inclusive, as you do not assume the young person’s sexuality and the types of people they might want to be in a relationship with.
You cannot assume to know a person’s gender identity or sexuality. In the same way, you cannot assume to know a person’s preferred pronouns. Your pronouns are how another person would refer to you when not using your name, for example:
- Ashley went to the cinema, he bought two tickets, one for himself and one for his boyfriend.
- Alex and her mum went to the park. Her mum sat on the swings whilst she went down the slide.
- Charlie went bowling with their friends. They celebrated when they got a strike as the points moved them to number one on the leader board.
The most commonly used pronouns are she/her, they/them and he/him. By asking a person their pronouns, and hearing them, or displaying your own pronouns, it can indicate that you are an ally.
Opportunities to share your pronouns/ask a person for theirs:
- Add your pronouns to your email signature alongside your name.
- Display your pronouns on your classroom door, your office door or on your ID card.
- When you introduce yourself to a person you can say ‘Hi, my name is _____ and I use ________ pronouns, who are you?’ Repeat asking for pronouns if they forget to tell you!
- When you begin a group meeting you can create an opportunity for everyone to share their name and pronouns.
It is important that when a person has shared their preferred pronouns with you, you make an effort to use them. A study conducted by Russell, Politt and Grosman (Predictors and Mental Health Benefits of Chosen Name Amongst Transgender Youth, 2018) found that using a trans young person’s name and pronouns can reduce symptoms of depression by 71%, reduce thoughts of suicide by 34% and reduce suicide attempts by 65%.
You can make changes to your environment, so that when an LGBT+ person enters the space they are made aware that this is a space where LGBT+ identities are respected. As such, they do not need to hide their identity, nor will they expect to meet people with LGBTphobic views.
Ways to indicate a space is LGBT+ inclusive include:
- Displaying and asking people’s pronouns.
- Rainbow lanyards and LGBT+ ally badges.
- Posters that celebrate LGBT+ history and LGBT+ icons.
- Posters and leaflets that advertise LGBT+ groups and services.
- A page on your website that shares how you are an inclusive space and which signposts people to LGBT+ specific services and support.
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