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Written by: Olive Grimes
If you have a queer or gender-non-conforming person in your life, chances are you’ve encountered how queer people interact with language. Maybe your loved one asked you to refer to them with a certain set of pronouns. Perhaps you’ve also noticed more young people using words like “individuals” or “folks” in place of “men and women,” or you’ve heard others argue over the grammatical accuracy of certain pronouns.
It can be hard to change our language to support the queer people in our lives. We form habits around the words and phrases that we use, and we reinforce these habits every time we talk to other people. It’s no wonder it’s so tough to break these habits — even queer people can attest to how hard it is! But it is so important to make the effort.
The language we use reflects how we see the world, and how the world sees us. As queer and gender-non-conforming people, we know this all too well. Misgendering words and incorrect pronouns can do more than hurt feelings — it impacts our ability to feel seen and respected. Especially for those early in their transition, it often takes a constant, active effort to see our true gender within ourselves. When the language we’re surrounded with isn’t affirming or respectful, it can take a lot of emotional labor to push forward. On the other hand, gender-inclusive language creates space for us to feel valued, loved and supported.
With all of that said, we’ve created this resource to break down the most impactful ways you can modify your language to foster acceptance for your gender-diverse loved ones. Of course, every queer person is different, and some of these changes may be more or less important to those in your life. Never feel afraid to simply ask your loved ones how best you can support them — we guarantee that they’ll appreciate the thought!