How to be LGBTQIA+ inclusive 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈
How to affirm and include people across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
Thanks so much for subscribing to Fighting Talk! I’m so happy you’re here.
If you don’t know me, my name’s Ettie, and my pronouns are she/her.
I just shared my pronouns. Did the world stop turning? Nope, because sharing your pronouns isn’t a big deal.
It’s one of the simple, powerful things you can do to be more LGBTQIA+ inclusive. And there are tons more.
LGBTQIA+ inclusive language
In this newsletter, we’ll look at:
What LGBTQIA+ inclusive language is,
How to use it,
Who to learn from.
Of course, the LGBTQIA+ spectrum covers a massive variety of genders, orientations and identities.
We can’t cover them all in one email! We’ll hear direct from asexual, genderqueer, non-binary (and more) friends in future newsletters. 🙌
Happy Pride month!
June was Pride month. Pride can be full of joy. But it’s not just a time for parades.
We need Pride because it’s so often dangerous to be queer, trans or gender nonconforming.
71 countries around the world criminalise being LGBTQ+.
Our words can harm people, or they can uplift, affirm and celebrate people.
I’ve put together some practical tips you can put into action, right now.
Want more detailed guidance and tons more resources? Check out my full article.
How to be more LGBTQIA+ inclusive
We tend to use euphemisms about things that are harmful or unclean. But there’s nothing bad about being LGBTQIA+.
Euphemisms, like “batting for the other team”, can stoke stigma.
Saying “he’s gay” or “she’s a lesbian” isn’t rude. It’s accurate.
➡️ Be clear and affirmative.
LGBTQIA+ is an umbrella term. It describes a massive spectrum of different genders, orientations and identities.
We don’t expect all CisHet people to be the same. Let queer people be as nuanced, varied and distinct as CisHet people get to be.
If you’re talking about all LGBTQIA+ people, then say LGBTQIA+. If you’re talking about a specific group, like asexual people, then say that.
➡️ Avoid generalisations (watch out for words like always, never, most, every).
Break the gender binary
Many of us were taught there are only two genders. But there are many.
Avoid language that reinforces the binary (like ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives).
Use gender-neutral terms (like everybody, people, all of us, children, young people, students, parents, carers, partners, spouses).
➡️ Practise not gendering people. You could say “I'll take a question from the person in the green shirt” (not the man/woman).
Sometimes it can feel like Pride is only for White, abled, middle class, gay men.
LGBTQIA+ people’s gender identities and orientations intersect with other oppressed identities.
We need to challenge racism, colourism, ableism (and more) within liberation movements.
➡️ Support groups and events like UK Black Pride.
Learn direct from marginalised folks
“Folks should follow LGBTQI+ people with multiple marginalised identities” says Brenna Miairia Kutch. “There are so many amazing perspectives that are missed because they are too far from the mainstream of who is acceptably queer. Follow disabled trans people of colour, fat queer Muslim elders, etc.”
➡️ Check out this list of LGBTQIA+ content creators to follow.
Celebrate LGBTQIA+ people
“Celebrate queer identities and history throughout the year, not just in June” says Jon Cornejo, anti-racism consultant and activist. “Organisations and movements scramble for pride messages in June but often do little for the community the rest of the year”
Celebrate, credit and pay LGBTQIA+ people for their work.
Honour and affirm people’s identities. Celebrate trans women on International Women’s Day, or trans girls on International Day of the Girl.
Avoid fixating on identity (for example, saying “trans artist” or “gay model” when it’s not relevant).
➡️ Celebrate LGBTQIA+ people all year round.
You can’t guess someone’s orientation from looking at them.
“Instead of assuming everyone is straight, use gender neutral terms like ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’” says Jon Cornejo, anti-racism consultant and activist. “It is then that person’s choice if they tell you the gender of their partner or not.”
You can’t guess someone’s pronouns by looking at them. So if you need to know their pronouns, just ask.
➡️ Need to know someone’s pronouns? Ask them.
Learn how to apologise
We all make mistakes. If you say the wrong thing, it’s often enough to:
Thank the person who corrected you.
Try not to make it all about you with a massive, theatrical apology.
Say sorry. Mean it.
Focus on not making the same mistake again.
➡️ Read about proactive accountability.
Share what you learn
When you learn how to be more inclusive, pass it on.
If someone uses a harmful word, you could say:
“I noticed you said [harmful word]. I also used to say that. Here’s what I’ve learned.”
If someone misgenders someone, you could say:
"I noticed you called Taylor her, just so you know, Taylor's pronouns are ‘they/them’.”
➡️ If it’s safe for you, call someone out.
Say your pronouns
If you’re comfortable sharing your pronouns, do it all the time. It makes it easier for other people to come out. And it helps decentre the assumption that everyone is CisHet. They’re not ”chosen” pronouns. If someone uses the pronouns “she/her”, then her pronouns are “she/her.”
👋 It’s as easy as saying: “Hi, my name is Ettie and my pronouns are she/her.”
Being “out” is a choice. It’s not safe for everyone, so give people the option to share their pronouns if they want to.
Lead with yours. If other people are happy to share, they can.
➡️ Include your pronouns in places like social media bios.
Use singular they
“Someone called for you.”
“Did you get their name?”
”No, they didn’t say.”
Singular they helps us:
not assume gender (“the person over there, they asked me a question”),
include people who use they/them pronouns (it’s not just non-binary people)
avoid bias (“the doctor will see their patients now”, “the pilot is making their checks”).
➡️ Practise using singular they.
Put people before rules
“Care more about people than about words or rules” - Alex Kapitan
I know, I know. I’ve just given you a list of tips to try. It looks like a rule book. But the truth is, there are no rules.
LGBTQIA+ people don’t all agree on who can say queer. That’s okay.
LGBTQIA+ people don’t use pronouns the same way. That’s okay.
LGBTQIA+ people are all different. That’s okay.
Instead of trying to lock people into categories, we need to:
Use the words people want us to use, even if we don’t like them.
Learning to think and speak outside the gender binary will be uncomfortable. Lean into that discomfort.
Let people change. Let your content go out of date. Let words evolve.
As Alex Kapitan beautifully says:
“Let’s honour the complexity and diversity of language. Rather than yearning for a single linguistic box or set of labels that will work for everyone, let’s be curious and joyful—and perhaps even gender defiant, gender noncompliant, or gender fabulous—in the abundance of words at our disposal, and use them well.”
➡️ Resist making rules. Stay curious.
Know that language changes
Many of us worry about using the “wrong” language, and causing harm.
But if we’re trying to create justice and equality, we have to embrace the liberatory potential of language, not hide from it.
Words change. Saying “I can’t be LGBTQIA+ inclusive because I can’t keep up with these language changes” is like saying “I can’t speak English, because I can’t keep up with the way grammar, syntax, spelling and vocabulary change over time.”
We need new words, new phrases and new meanings, to imagine a new world.
Want more practical tips? Read the full article.
⚡ Take action
If you can, please consider donating to LGBTQIA+ charities.
How journalists can improve their coverage of the trans community
Simple but powerful tips to transform writing about trans people into writing with and for trans people.
I heart singular they
A love letter to singular they.
FAQ about pronouns and trans people
An amazingly detailed guide from sociolinguist Lal Zimman.
LGBTQIA+ content creators you should follow
Just a list of brilliant Instagrammers, YouTubers, activists, models, writers, campaigners, comedians who happen to be LGBTQIA.
Breaking through the binary: gender explained using continuums
An explainer about gender by Sam Killerman.
The ABCs of LGBTQIA+
A language guide from the New York Times.
What’s the best way to refer to everyone who isn’t cis?
A detailed guide from the brilliant Radical Copyeditor, Alex Kapitan.
And for some thoughts on how to decentre dominant cultural groups, check out this two-part article I wrote:
Part 1 - Want to be more inclusive? You need anti-oppressive content.
Part 2 - How to create anti-oppressive content.
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