4.9 Learn to use inclusive language: The LGBTQ2I+ community and inclusion

LGBTQ2I+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and other gender and sexual identities. Building an atmosphere of trust and positive space for the LGBTQ2I+ community includes the use of inclusive language. Much of our language reflects a particular type of socialization. For example, the terms “husband” or “wife”, are commonly used instead of “partner”. When we make assumptions about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, we may contribute to a culture that excludes people who do not fit in a binary framework, rather than includes them across a continuum of identities.

For someone who is trans, it is particularly important to use inclusive language to avoid pronouns that fit the traditional paradigm of “he/she” or “him/her”. Some individuals do not subscribe to a binary idea of gender and may identify as both a man and a woman, as neither, or as another identity. Often the pronoun they prefer is “they”, “them” or “their” used as a singular pronoun.

To create LGBTQ2I+ positive space, it is important that your board does not make assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Here are some ways to practice inclusive language:

  • Incorporate gender-neutral pronouns, such the use of “they/them” (used as a singular pronoun), in board work, including policy and procedure documents to raise awareness about gender diversity among board and organization members.
  • Invite everyone to identify their pronouns at meetings or events so that it becomes a common practice and removes the onus on some members to identify themselves as “different”. This practice can also be adapted for email signatures. (i.e., Hello, my name is _________, and my pronouns are they/them; my pronouns are he/him; my pronouns are she/her)[1]

  1. Adapted from survey recommendations in Government of Canada (2017). Building a Diverse and Inclusive Public Service: Final Report of the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. Retrieved from Government of Canada


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