Today, we’re kicking off Pride Month with a guide on basic terms to get familiar with (if you’re not already). Gender identity is a big part of understanding oneself and being able to live your most authentic life. As a health staffing agency, we firmly believe that acceptance and celebration of what makes us who we are is essential. We must all do our part to further the conversation and promote allyship within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. With that said, let’s start by educating ourselves on basic terms and gender identification language, so that we can encourage an open and inclusive environment for everyone.
What is Gender Identity?
Despite being sometimes used interchangeably, ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ hold different meanings. Sex is what is biologically assigned at birth, and gender is how one identifies themself. For example, you might have been assigned female at birth, but through self-discovery have determined that you innately and authentically identify as male, or gender non-binary. Keep in mind that gender is a socially constructed concept, and can evolve or change throughout a person’s life.
Gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to attraction to others, rather than how one identifies in terms of gender.
Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity matches their assigned biological sex. Those who identify as cisgender have privilege in that they exist within the societal standard or “norm”. Of course, we have a lot of work to do in shifting what is deemed “normal”, so that future generations do not have to grow up with the feeling that their true gender or sexual orientation falls outside of what is imposed, expected, assumed or accepted by society and/or those closest to them.
Gender non-binary refers to identifying as gender fluid, neutral, or not on the gender binary at all. Those who identify as non-binary may have specific pronouns such as “they/them”, “she/they” or “he/they”. It is important to recognize and respect others’ pronouns as you would want them to respect yours. Pronoun recognition and acceptance is a big part of showing that you support and care about how others feel when you refer to them. It has a profound impact on self-esteem, and helps to initiate and maintain a trusting, compassionate relationship.
Transgender refers to a person whose assigned biological sex differs from the gender they identify with. When a person comes out as trans, this can be an extremely liberating and life-changing event. They may or may not choose to transition with the incorporation of a new name, style/look, and/or medical intervention, such as hormone replacement therapy and/or surgically. Regardless of where someone is in their gender expression or transition journey, always respect their preferred name(s) and pronouns.
If someone you know has recently changed their pronouns, consciously and intentionally practice using their desired pronouns to avoid misgendering them, which can leave a damaging impression on a person’s confidence and self-worth. If you do accidentally misgender someone, simply apologize, move on and take note of this for next time.
If you’re unsure of someone’s pronouns, disclosing your own is a good way to open the door and encourage a safe, open and respectful dialogue. For example, “Hi, my name is Sam and my pronouns are he/him.”
Thanks for reading and we look forward to celebrating Pride with everyone!