As humans, we have a tendency to categorise and label people from the moment they are born. We assign them to one of two categories: male or female, boy or girl.
We may even have expectations around how they will behave and how they’ll dress.
This classification is known as the gender binary. It is the idea that individuals can only belong to one of these two genders — man or woman. However, life is far from neat and tidy, and people often defy the expectations and behaviours assigned to them at birth based on their anatomy.
The problem with the gender binary is that it fails to account for the complexity and diversity of gender identity. It disregards the existence of a gender continuum and instead insists on rigid, polarised points.
This becomes problematic when individuals do not conform to these prescribed points in terms of their dress, presentation, or behaviour.
“Non-binary” is a term used to describe those who do not identify with or express a gender identity that aligns strictly with being male or female, masculine or feminine. They exist outside of the confines of the gender binary.
There are various other ways in which individuals may identify themselves, including as non-gendered, gender queer, gender-nonconforming, or gender fluid. These terms all fall under the umbrella of “trans,” which encompasses individuals who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
Conversely, the term cisgender or “cis” (pronounced ‘sis’ like the first syllable of ‘sister’) is used to describe individuals whose gender identity aligns with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their anatomy.
Understanding and acknowledging the complexity of gender is important because many individuals do not feel comfortable or at ease with the gender assigned to them. And, at the end of the day, we all just want to feel like we can be our true selves, don’t we?
Creating a Safe, Respectful, and Inclusive Workplace
Here are some simple ways to help make your workplace safe, respectful and inclusive for everyone, no matter what gender:
1. Avoid gendered language: Instead of using terms like “Hi guys” or “Hi ladies”, opt for inclusive greetings such as “Hi everyone.”
2. Examine job titles: Review how your workplace uses job titles and consider using gender-neutral alternatives. For instance, use “salesperson” instead of “salesman”.
3. Don’t assume the gender of your work colleagues’ significant others. Use ‘partner’ until they tell you otherwise.
4. Use gender-neutral pronouns: Instead of using gendered pronouns, employ gender-neutral alternatives. For example, say “their role is to” rather than “his or her role is to”.
5. Steer clear of language that perpetuates gender stereotypes: Avoid phrases like “man up” that reinforce gender stereotypes.
6. Respect pronouns and be open about your own. Requesting or sharing pronouns is not seeking special treatment; it is simply a way to ensure that individuals are addressed correctly. Just as you would correct yourself (or expect to be corrected) if a colleague preferred to be called “Kate” instead of “Katherine” – pronouns should be treated similarly.
7. And finally, we all know we’re going to make mistakes. If and when it happens, just correct yourself and keep doing the good work!
By thinking beyond the confines of the gender binary, we can foster a workplace where everyone feels welcomed and valued.
Embracing diversity and inclusivity allows individuals to bring their authentic selves to work, creating an environment where productivity, creativity, and collaboration can thrive.