(This post originally appeared on Cam’s blog.)
If you’re reading this, then you are interested in being more gender inclusive, increasing your gender awareness and learning more about how we’re socialized by gender.
I invite you to watch my video below where I share 5 Ways You Can Be Gender Inclusive in your life, business, work, community and relationships.
I’ve also transcribed the main points for you below.
Our society is becoming more aware of gender, acknowledging that there are folx who identify outside the gender binary and the different ways we have been socialized based on gender. While we have made progress, creating social change is a slow process, and it doesn’t all happen linearly. These 5 steps I share will take you to the next level of consciousness around gender and creating a different world that is more freeing for us all.
Let’s get to it!
1) Get Into The Practice Of Asking People’s Pronouns & Practice Using Their Pronoun
Why is this important? It’s important because when we stop assuming people’s pronouns, then we are truly moving beyond the gender binary. When you assume someone’s pronouns without asking them, you are abiding by the gender conditioning you’ve been taught.
For example, if you assume I use “she/her” pronouns because you perceive me to be a woman, you are making an assumption about me based on what patriarchal gender socialization has taught you. This reinforces the gender binary. Because, in this example, you are making an assumption about me that may or may not be true or accurate of how I identify and perceive myself. It may or may not be true that I use “she/her” pronouns, but you don’t know for sure until you ask.
In order to be inclusive, you will want to challenge your assumptions about people, how you perceive them and what you’ve been taught to think.
When we ask people and give them the opportunity to tell us what pronouns they use and how they identify, then we are acknowledging that gender is a social construct, and we take one or two steps closer to moving beyond patriarchy and the gender binary.
It also helps us learn more about each other. When we make assumptions about one another without asking them, then we’re not really getting to know them. We aren’t listening to them tell us who they are, we are listening to our own minds tell us who we think they are.
Get into the practice of asking people’s pronouns to learn more about who people are. Then, you open up the opportunity to see them for how they perceive themselves instead of how the patriarchy has taught you to see them.
So, how do you ask people’s pronouns?
Simply put, just ask.
If you are a coach, facilitator, teacher, or leader of any kind, get into the practice of going around the group and asking everyone’s pronouns. Start with yourself, I am Cameron Airen and I use she AND they pronouns.
Don’t ask what people’s “preferred” pronouns are since pronouns are not a preference.
Do ask, what pronouns people use.
Do allow for people to use any kind of pronoun they want whether you have heard of it or not. Some people might have a pronoun that you’re not familiar with, and that’s okay. Some folx may not want to use any pronouns at all. In which case, you can use their name when referring to them and try to leave pronouns out of the equation altogether.
2) Use Gender Neutral Language (Whenever Possible)
Language is how we communicate whether it’s verbally or through writing. This is why shifting our language is VITAL to social change.
It’s important to be aware of the gendered terms you use or don’t use, and to be in the practice of learning and unlearning. Unlearning gendered language, and being aware of the words you think in your mind and say out loud.
You can let go of any judgment and shame for yourself. It’s simply about bringing awareness to your thoughts and the words you use.
Paying attention to, for example, how often do you say, “Hey guys” to a group of folx who mostly identify as women. Paying attention to when you use gender binary language like, “Ladies and Gentlemen”, as another example.
If you’re still saying things like, “Hello Ladies and Gentlemen”, you are still reinforcing the gender binary, and are excluding someone. You are excluding people who do not identify as a “lady” or as a “gentleman”. Even people who you think look like “ladies”, for example, may not identify as such.
When you’re addressing a room of people, as another example, say, “Hey everyone” instead of gendering it. Shifting your gendered language is really that simple.
Be as gender-neutral as possible through your language.
Now, you will still use gendered language because that is what we’ve been conditioned to use. So, it’s not about getting it “perfect” or going from level 1 to level 10 overnight. It’s baby shifts over time. But, it’s a practice that requires diligence and commitment. Being committed to shifting your gendered language will help you shift it faster and create sustainable change.
Just practicing shifting your gendered language once does not work. It’s a daily practice. And, one that you have to want to do if you want to be gender inclusive and move beyond the gender binary.
Again, you don’t have to engage in judgment or shame. It’s more about creativity and creating something different and new that is more inclusive to all of us. The more gender-neutral language we use, the more we can be free. We are more free when we are not expected to live up to some language of “ladies and gentlemen”, for example.
Giving people the opportunity to tell you who they are and using gender inclusive language is HUGE.
Make sure you grab my FREE How To Shift Your Gendered Language Cheatsheet HERE.
3) Questioning The Gender System Altogether
Being gender inclusive is NOT about fitting people into boxes. It’s NOT about accepting or tolerating people who may not look like you or identify the way you do. It’s NOT about checking a “diversity and inclusion” box or an “I’m being a good human” box.
That doesn’t actually create a more inclusive, free world. What that does is try to fit people into a system that was never created or designed for us and doesn’t allow ALL of us to be who we are.
It’s about questioning the gender system altogether. That is true freedom. Because as long as we have gender conditioning, none of us are free.
From the time we come out of the womb, we are labeled into one of two boxes: girl or boy. But, it’s not just a label. It’s a label with a whole set of expectations and norms attached to it telling you how and who you should be in the world.
We are taught what it means to be a “girl” and what it means to be a “boy” and these meanings differ from one another, but why? Why should they differ? What is the point? Why have gender conditioning? What purpose does it serve?
That is the system I encourage you to question. It’s not about continuing with the gender binary and just adding people into it to be “inclusive”, it’s about questioning that binary altogether.
It’s about using and developing your critical thinking skills, and questioning how we’ve been socialized and what we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves and about others. Which leads me to the next way.
4) Reflect On Your Relationship To Gender
When you want to create social change, it’s not just about other people, being inclusive, accepting or tolerant. It’s as much about self-reflection.
Self-reflecting on your own relationship to gender will help you question the gender system and be a part of creating a new society and world that can work better for all of us and we can be more free.
What are the ways you have aligned with the gender that was placed upon you?
What are the ways you have NOT aligned with the gender that was placed upon you?
Don’t leave yourself out of the equation. Don’t leave yourself out of social change. Reflect on how this system has impacted you, how you have been affected by it, what it has taught you. You are part of it.
Gender affects all of us. We have all been conditioned to be a certain gender. Even if you identify as cisgender, gender still affects you, and this is something you can talk about. Everyone can talk about gender because everyone has been socialized to be a gender.
Reflecting on your own experience with gender is so important.
5) Be Aware Of Gender Socialization
Learn and teach yourself how we have been socialized by gender. What are the expectations that have been placed upon you and others based on gender?
For example, studies have been done that show that we give baby “boys” less affection than baby “girls” because of what we’ve been taught about how “boys” should be in the world and what they “need”. This is gender socialization.
Often, we are not conscious of this conditioning. This is why continuously bringing our awareness to gender conditioning is so important. The more awareness we have, the more opportunity we have to stop gender conditioning and create something more freeing for all of us.
Give yourself this awareness and knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Want to learn more? Want to continue to increase your gender awareness and knowledge, and learn how you can implement it into your life?
I invite you to join my class on Patriarchy, Gender & Coaching as part of the Feminist Coach Track.
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