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Gender pronouns: Learn how you can be more inclusive

Promoting diversity and inclusion is a key component of our healthy and productive workplace culture. The newest effort to nurture this culture is the UCOP Gender Pronoun Education/Awareness Initiative, which is focused on educating staff around how we can support trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming staff by implementing simple changes in how we use pronouns in the workplace.

This is the fourth article in a four-part series. To learn more, please read the previous articles: “Introducing the gender pronoun initiative” (Sept. 23), “What is gender?” (Oct. 7) and “Exploring the history of gender expression” (Oct. 22).

As UCOP prepares to celebrate Multicultural Day on October 24, there’s no better time to reflect upon all the cultural and personal traditions that make us who we are and enrich the diverse staff experience of UCOP.

Gender pronouns: What you can do

If you’re not a member of the LGBTQ community (or otherwise familiar with trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people) and aren’t sure about how to promote inclusivity around gender pronouns, that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. Here are some great ways to get started.

Educate yourself on workplace inclusivity

All too often, organizations look to trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming employees for advice about how they can and should be more inclusive. While well-intentioned, this can add responsibilities and stress on these employees. A better solution is for companies and individuals to take the initiative to inform themselves about transgender communities and the unique challenges they face — and then commit to create a culture of inclusivity. Many reputable resources are available, such as the Transgender Law Center’s Model Transgender Employment Policy.

Help others be inclusive

Your colleagues and other people with whom you regularly interact may not have the information they need to make inclusivity an everyday priority. Share resources like the policy above and the Human Rights Campaign’s toolkit for Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace. This toolkit addresses common discrimination that trans people, in particular, face in the workplace and provides solutions.

Be proactive with pronouns

Does introducing yourself using gender pronouns seem unnecessary to you? If so, that’s because you believe people will correctly assume your gender pronouns by your appearance. The key word here is assume. We shouldn’t always make this assumption that someone’s appearance mirrors their gender identity. Supporting and standing in solidarity with trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people means using — and respecting — their correct gender pronouns. If you aren’t sure about someone’s pronouns, it’s ok to ask. And, consider taking the proactive step of including your preferred gender pronouns in your email signatures, as well as on name tags and pins.

For more information about how to be proactive with pronouns in a way that makes everyone feel included, the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center provides helpful guidance.

Remember: The work of creating truly inclusive environments takes time, along with a wholesale commitment to changing culture. This is not about convening a committee, or running a short-term campaign. Rather, it’s about taking serious steps to understand the everyday experiences of all people in the UC and making real changes so that everyone can be their best.

For questions about the UCOP Gender Pronoun Education/Awareness Initiative, please contact Sylvia Bhatia, OPSA chair.

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