6 Easy Ways To Be Gender Inclusive With Your Language

Say goodbye to the gender binary!

A group of young queer people
A group of young queer peoplePhoto by Shutterstock

There is nothing worse than going out to dinner with a group of friends and the waiter comes over and addresses us all as “ladies.” Just last week I was out with a friend of mine who’s nonbinary and the waiter did just that. My friend let out a quiet sigh and I could see how depleted they felt by that use of language. I quickly addressed the waiter and asked them (politely) to use gender neutral language because we don’t all identify as ladies. They apologized, took our drink orders and went about the rest of their work shift. The rest of our meal was super lovely and the waiter used “y’all” when addressing out table.

However, there’s a way to nip this problem in the bud—so that no one ever has to feel uncomfortably misgendered again (!!!). We can all make a commitment to use gender inclusive language. All. The. Time. And it’s really easy, I promise. What better time to start this intentional practice than Trans Awareness Week? From November 13 to 17 every year, the LGBTQ community works to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces. Misgendering is one of those issues.

Here are 6 easy ways we can all start to be more gender inclusive, TODAY! It’s okay if you sometimes slip up, this is a learning process for all of us. Just apologize and keep trying to use gender inclusive language whenever you can.

1. Instead of “Ladies and Gentlemen,” use “Distinguished Guests”

Even the New York City MTA is upping their trans-inclusive policy by getting rid of gendering subway riders with “ladies and gentlemen.” This is a perfect example of how gender non-conforming people deal with misgendering on a daily basis. The agony of this adds up and it can make it difficult to even find the motivation to leave the house when you know you’re going to continually be gendered in a binary way. So, if you are planning a fancy event—don’t address your guests as ladies and gentlemen. Opt in for the gender inclusive distinguished guests. It sounds fancier too!

2. Instead of “The lady in the yellow scarf…” use “The person wearing the yellow scarf…”

If you work in the service industry and need to address people when you don’t know their names and pronouns, it’s best to keep it neutral. So instead of telling your coworker that “The lady in the yellow scarf needs more water” you could say “The person in the yellow scarf needs more water.” Just like that, you’ve made sure that you didn’t misgender someone!

3. Instead of “Hey guys!” use “Hey folks!”

This one is tough for people to get used to. I know, I grew up in Western New York where “hey guys” was common language used for all genders. But if you’re speaking to a trans woman, that simple slip up in language could feel really horrible to her. It’s better to get in the habit of opting out of using guys to address groups of people and opt in for using folks. Everyone will be happier and so we all win, really!

4. Instead of “Men and Women” use “Everyone”

The gender binary is everywhere in our society. Literally, everywhere. It can get super frustrating when you don’t identify as either a woman or a man. It feels like there just isn’t any space that is welcome to you. Which sucks and no one should feel that way. So, instead of gendering everything every chance we get—let’s just not. We can start by using “everyone” instead of referring to large groups of people as “men and women.” Super simple!

5. Instead of “His or Hers” use “Theirs”

They, them, their pronouns are real. We use them all the time without even realizing it. But then when someone says that their pronouns are gender neutral, we just can’t seem to wrap our heads around it. You can practice daily by normalizing these pronouns. For example—if you see that someone dropped some money on the ground, instead of saying “Hey, she dropped her money on the ground” you could opt in for the gender neutral “Hey, they dropped their money on the ground.”

6. Instead of “Hey ladies” use “Hey y’all”

I can’t even tell you the amount of times the “hey ladies” happens when I’m out with a group of friends. This is a big assumption to make, that every single person identifies as a “lady.” Some butch women don’t even like to hear the word lady used in reference to them, but for trans men and GNC people—it’s especially  problematic. It’s an easy fix though, you can start using “y’all” to refer to groups of people when you don’t know if they all like to be referred to as ladies.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but 6 simple ways we can all be more conscientious of saying goodbye to the gender binary.