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Turning Common Words Into Gender Inclusive Language

In a world where language shapes our perceptions and interactions, the choice of words becomes paramount. Glide into a colourful landscape of gender inclusive language, where communication isn’t solely based on conveying ideas to get a point across – but more so about fostering an empathetic and healthy society of people.

While some may still be under the impression that the English language is commonplace and second nature, others cannot help but feel excluded by gendered words that run rampant in their daily interactions. Providing inclusive language examples and understanding why it matters will hopefully make you feel more comfortable and adjusted in a place with every individual under the sun. Nothing feels better than staying bright.

Inclusive Language Examples You Can Make Note Of

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Before listing off examples of gender-neutral language, let’s start with defining gender inclusivity. The gender inclusive meaning is essentially the practice of speaking and/or writing in a manner that isn’t limited to anyone’s sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or gender stereotype. If that sounds like a lot of ‘gender’ jargon to you, that’s really the point. It’s about combating gender-exclusive terminology focused to serve only one group of people. It’s opening the doors for more discussion and, therefore, more inclusivity to happen. It’s providing a seat for everyone at the table.

Speaking of including all bodies, check out The Importance Of Queer Sex Ed For Everyone that’s another useful lesson in togetherness for the greater good.

Asking About Somebody’s Pronouns

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While pronouns might come across as obvious, asking someone who doesn’t present themselves as generically masculine or feminine their pronouns may be a good call. Pronouns are not necessarily preferred, they’re mandatory and can serve as someone’s reaffirmation of their gender identity. If you’re ever confused or uncertain what someone’s pronouns are, you can always refer to them as “they” instead of making an immediate assumption. The singular they is appropriate in this case.

While pronouns and sexual identity are two very different things, the two can live as part of the same community. Understand What Is LGBTQ2IA+ By Rox Deragon for a thorough breakdown leading to a breakthrough.

Becoming Familiar With “They” Terminology

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To many, the term “they” has been classified as a plural to note multiple people. But, more recently, the same term is used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun – stepping in as an identity describer for the non-binary community (people who don’t conform to binary gender beliefs). Though it appears odd to use a traditionally plural term to reference only one individual, it’s actually quite popular and may suit the pronoun choice of a person.

Still, the term they is treated as a plural in the majority of cases. But, here are some examples of where the singular they can be used when the gender of the individual is out of the question or yet to be revealed:

  • The star student of the year will get their own valedictorian speech.

  • Have you met the new member of staff? How do they fit in?

On the other side of the coin, some people use they/them pronouns (usually non-binary folk) and the word is treated as singular again:

Do you see the difference?

Using More Collective Terms

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Convenient inclusive language examples have a lot to do with replacing phrases like men and women, ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls with other gender-neutral alternatives like: folks, guests, and friends. Even the term y’all can be used properly to address a group of people, even if it sounds extremely southern off the tongue. But there are other terms that are rooted in gender bias and are often overlooked day-to-day. Here are popular ones with easy replacements you can try adopting:

  • Policeman, mailman, fireman – police officer, mail carrier, firefighter

  • Manmade – manufactured, fabricated, artificial

  • Mankind – humankind

  • Waiter/waitress/hostess – server, host

  • Stewardess – flight attendant

  • Husband and wife – partners, spouses

  • Guys – all, everyone

Though you may already be aware of the above examples, and even use them in your ongoing conversations, it’s important to make note of the way language can be transformed to create an inclusive atmosphere. There’s always another way to say something!

Why All Of This Is Important

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Gender inclusive language can change the impact someone has about their surroundings and the people they’re with, ultimately making them feel more comfortable and more themself. Speaking in gender-specific tongue can make people feel like they’re an outsider or different or invisible, resulting in unwarranted exclusion whether it’s done consciously or unconsciously. It costs absolutely nothing to use more inclusive language to better frame a point, argument, or conversation. 

If you accidentally get someone’s pronouns wrong or wind up using gendered language, no biggie! Mistakes happen. If it’s been pointed out to you that what you’re saying is making others feel a type of way, apologize, and move forward with the teachable moment in mind. The most important thing to do is always listen to others, register it, and remember that for the next time.

 An Inclusive Conclusion

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After running through inclusive language examples, pronoun usage, and other collective phrases, it should be a lot more spelt out for you to see why gender inclusivity can be an easy topic to get behind. Maybe the entire concept is new to you, or maybe you’re extremely well-versed in this law of the land, but hopefully this gives you a lot to chat about with your circle when it comes to how language impacts results, reactions, and responses.

Want to hear more about how you can show up in other inclusive ways? Read What Is Allyship? How To Be A Good LGBTQ+ Ally for a supportive study.


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