Pronouns and why allyship matters
This resource has been created to educate and spread awareness in support of our LGBTQ+ colleagues, service users, and wider community.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation being spread. Please do not hesitate in using the signposted resources, or contact the ED&I team if you have any questions.
We advise using this blog from Inclusive Employers which covers key terms relating to the LGBTQ+ community.
Sex, sexuality and gender identity
Sex is the gender you were assigned at birth based on physical and biological features. Cis-gendered people identify as the same gender they were born with. In the UK, you will be assigned as either male or female, although genetic variations may occur. For example, intersex. The Inclusive Employers glossary provides more information.
To put it simply, sexuality refers to who you may be attracted to. For example, you may identify as a lesbian, which means you are likely to have a romantic and/or emotional sexual orientation to other women. There is an introduction to LGBTQ+ flags resource on the Inclusive Employers website.
The LGBTQ+ community is diverse and your gender identity may play into your sexuality. Gender is not rigid. It is a fluid spectrum and it is up to you what you identify as, hence why pronouns are important. Your gender doesn’t have to be fixed. It can grow and develop throughout your life.
What are gender pronouns
- Gender pronouns are words that people use in place of names to refer to themselves or others.
- It is an easy way of sharing information about your gender identity or other people’s.
- People may use pronouns in all sorts of situations. Some may not disclose their pronouns at all.
- Common examples of pronouns are “he / him / his” and “she / her / hers”.
- Some trans and non-binary people may also use “they / them / theirs” or neopronouns such as “ve / vis / vir”.
- Using gender-neutral pronouns means we don’t associate the person we’re talking about with a specific gender.
Why are pronouns important?
- Sex does not predetermine a person’s gender. Many people’s gender doesn’t sit comfortably with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- We all like to be referred to in a way that makes us feel accepted. This can include the use of our name, gender and pronouns. It might take some getting used to, but using the right pronouns for someone will make them feel acknowledged and valid.
- Using people’s correct pronouns shows that you respect them and who they are. Take the lead and introduce your pronouns, to allow people such as the trans and non-binary community feel safe and comfortable in relaying their pronouns.
How to use pronouns in everyday life
- You can introduce yourself at the beginning of a meeting: e.g. “My name is Joe Bloggs and I go by she / her”. This ensures colleagues become familiar from the beginning and sets the precedent of a safe space for anyone else who uses pronouns to express their gender identity. Remember, don’t assume! It might not always be immediately obvious what pronoun someone uses.
- Try to correct yourself and others if a person’s deadname. This is referring to a trans person by a name they used before their transition which they no longer go by, or using incorrect pronouns. Not only does it show basic respect and allyship, but it helps you and your colleagues to remember the person’s name. You can help to prevent further mistakes in future and create a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone.
Instead of addressing groups of people with binary language such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’, try more inclusive alternatives such as ‘everyone’, ‘folks’, or ‘pals’.
Including pronouns in e-mail signatures is another great way to show that you’re committed to allyship. It helps people respectfully refer to one another and avoid mistakes like misgendering someone.
Use words that define the relationship instead of the relationship and gender. For example, use ‘parents’, ‘partner’, ‘children’ or ‘siblings’.
Avoid using titles (such as Mr, Miss or Mrs) where possible. Not everyone is comfortable with these.
What if I make a mistake?
- It is always best to follow the lead of the person using pronouns. If this becomes difficult, simply use their name. Intentionally using the wrong pronouns for someone repeatedly is a hurtful form of misgendering.
- If you’re not sure about a person’s pronouns, do not just ask that one person what their pronouns are as this singles them out and could cause feelings of isolation. It is best to ask everyone in the room to create a safe and inclusive environment for that person.
- If you do get it wrong, apologise and aim to correct yourself as soon as possible. It can be hard to use pronouns at first, especially if this is something that is new to you. The important part is you are actively learning, and doing your best to not make the same mistakes again.
What are the benefits of wearing a pronoun badge or adding your pronouns to your email signature?
You don’t have to identify as non-binary or trans to request or wear a badge. Cis-people (those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) and allies are encouraged to wear a badge. It can bring awareness and demonstrate inclusivity internally and externally. This shows understanding, consideration and respect that pronouns are an important part of gender identity.
Wearing a badge is a personal decision and the pronoun badge you choose is your decision based on how you personally identify. The badge you receive will be what you request and will not be assumed. There is no expectation for anyone to wear one. It is your choice whether you personally display your pronouns or not and no pressure will be made within teams for individuals.
Including your pronouns in your email signature, or when you introduce yourself, could help colleagues overcome uncertainty and embarrassment about using the wrong pronouns for you.
For example, have you thought about the following instances where this could occur?
Think about if:
- Your name is used for multiple genders.
- Your name is less well-known.
- Other people seeing your name come from a different culture to you, so they’ve not seen your name before (even if it is well-known in your culture).
- Other people make mistakes when they try to guess your gender identity.
Including our pronouns is also an act of allyship for our colleagues who may face more instances of other people making mistakes about their pronouns, including our trans and non-binary colleagues.
Saying and spelling people’s name correctly is also an act of allyship for people from different cultures to ours.
An example is below:
My pronouns are: She / They
You may also wish to include a link to a resource explaining why you are introducing your pronouns in your email signature. This can be a means to educate and spread awareness. You can even link to this resource!
The Equality Act 2010 and Section 22 Gender Recognition Act
The Equality Act 2010
People have the right to reassign or define their gender, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth.
Section 22 Gender Recognition Act
The Section 22 Gender Recognition Act means it is a criminal offence to reveal a person’s trans history without their prior consent.
Allyship: make a pledge and take action
The Lincolnshire System Allyship Toolkit is filled with tips and resources for the use of staff in the Lincolnshire NHS System. This toolkit is a work in progress and is continually being updated.
Staff can also request a rainbow badge or lanyard on their Trust's intranet site.
We also encourage LPFT staff to join our staff networks by emailing email@example.com
Don’t forget, you can go to your local Pride events, watch shows with LGBTQ+ representation, and always strive to further educate yourself. You can find some links to more resources further down the page.
There are plenty of online resources available to help your understanding!
- The gender-fluid generation: young people on being male, female or non-binary. This is an article from The Guardian newspaper.
- Key terms from Inclusive Employers.
- Why we use pronouns in our email signatures. An article from Inclusive Employers.
- The Lincolnshire System Allyship Toolkit.
- A quick guide to allyship. An article from Inclusive Employers.
- Getting started with Trans inclusion in the workplace. An article from Stonewall.
- An introduction to LGBTQ+ flags. An article from Inclusive Employers.
Did you know?
The following statistics are provided by Stonewall.
Depression in the LGBTQ+ community
8% of the general population in the UK experience depression. This rises to 52% for LGBTQ+ people, 62% for B.A.M.E LGBTQ+ people, 64% for LGBTQ+ people in lower income households, 67% for trans people, and 70% for non-binary people.
69% of people who have experienced hate crimes due to their LGBTQ+ identity have experienced depression.
Anxiety disorders in the LGBTQ+ community
- 6% of the general population in the UK experience anxiety disorders. This rises to 61% for LGBTQ+ people (in 2022), 65% for LGBTQ+ women, 70% for LGBTQ+ people from lower income households, 71% for trans people, and 79% for non-binary people.
- 76% of people who have experienced hate crimes due to their LGBTQ+ identity have experienced an anxiety disorder.
Hello from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team! If you have any thoughts or questions about this resource, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“One of the most basic ways to show your respect for someone’s identity is to use the correct pronouns.” From thinktospeak.com
You may see our staff wearing pronoun badges. LPFT staff can email email@example.com to request these. We also encourage our staff to add their pronouns to their email signatures if they would like to.
Important considerations to remember
Not using the correct pronouns can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. There is no inclusion when we perpetuate rigid gender roles.
People using other pronouns such as ‘they/them’ feel “trapped in the wrong body”. This is an oversimplication.
The LGBTQ+ community is diverse. LGBTQ+ identities intersect with other aspects of oneself, such as age and race.
A person does not need to disclose they are LGBTQ+. The importance lies with a person being able to live their life as their authentic selves.