Updated: Sep 18
By Nishita Kamdar
“It is time we all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals”, said Emma Watson. ‘Gender is a spectrum’ is something we all must’ve read somewhere or the other, however how many of us truly understand what this means?
The lack of sex education and associated ideals of inclusiveness does not only make our social skills inadequate but also poses a question of basic ethics and morality.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
(Nope, not textbook words, an actual explanation!) Gender is used to denote the association of an individual with identities across the gender spectrum (read more about it here).
Sex on the other hand is used to denote a person based on the genitalia, or biological indicators they possess at birth (read more about it here).
The gender-inclusive language is something we aren’t taught about and that only makes it more essential to learn. Individuals around us often tend to misgender others or even disrespect a person by mocking or ignoring their preferred pronouns. Misgendering someone can come off as ignorant and can be very disrespectful.
The first thing one can do to hold an inclusive conversation is asking a person their preferred pronoun (and then using it, at all times!). Remember that it is more than okay to make mistakes but it is not okay, to not apologize after making one. Unlearning the rigid social norms we are taught can be difficult but it is essential to re-learn to create an inclusive and safe space for everyone.
Some of the pronouns you can use are:
They, them or theirs instead of he/she.
This is the best way to avoid misgendering a person as well! If you are confused, it is also better to just use the person’s name instead of risking misgendering them.
Using other pronouns such as womxn should be avoided since they appear to be more ‘inclusive’, however, tend to give the message that women of colour, transgender women, women of disabilities, and others, were not considered women in the first place. Masking something like this as inclusive is blatantly incorrect.
In Indian native languages, the script is such that all verbs are paired up with gender. Misgendering can be very common in such a case, and can also be difficult to avoid. Using gender-neutral statements is the best way to be mindful while speaking in these languages.
(for example: in Hindi, instead of Woh padh rahi hai. Or Woh padh raha hai. Say Woh padh rahein hai.)
Read more here.
Such small steps can go a long way in making the language and the overall environment much more inclusive as a whole.
Being mindful of the pronouns we use, is very important and can make a huge difference to not only one person but also in the environment. Change can effectively be brought one conversation at a time.
As Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
So take the first step to build the new, and be mindful of everything around you. Observe, learn, ask questions, and most importantly un-learn. As cliche as it is, be the change you want to see in the world