We all deserve to feel safe and respected by our colleagues at work, and that includes being referred to by our preferred gender pronouns.
Jackson Bird, the author of SORTED: GROWING UP, COMING OUT, AND FINDING MY PLACE, talks about pronouns: how to use them, what to do if you forget someone’s, and more great advice on how to be an ally in the workplace.
Watch the video or read the transcript below to discover 4 tips for using the correct pronouns in the office. Want to learn more? Don’t miss Jackson’s article “5 Ways to Support the Transgender People in Your Life.”
So today I want talk about pronouns and being an ally to trans coworkers in the workplace.
For many of us, our workplace is somewhere where we meet people from lots of different backgrounds that we might not have otherwise interacted with. In order to sustain a productive, healthy workplace, we need to be aware of those differences and whether our behavior and company policies are creating an environment of prejudice and discontent or one where every employee feels confident going to work as their full self.
For trans and nonbinary people, it can be nerve-wracking to work alongside people who may not understand our needs or respect a most basic part of who we are. So if you want to be an ally to trans coworkers, here are four things you can do to help out:
First, any time a group of coworkers is introducing themselves, like in an interdepartmental meeting, include your pronouns along with your name and job title. Having everyone, trans or not, share their pronouns normalizes the activity so trans people aren’t singled out and ensures everyone is on the same page, preventing people from being referred to by the wrong pronoun later.
Pronouns, like she/her, he/him, and they/them, are ubiquitous in everyday conversation. For trans and nonbinary people, being referred to by the correct pronoun is a base level of respect that adds to our peace of mind and sense of safety––and by the way, the “correct” pronoun is whatever someone tells you their pronoun is, not what you assume it to be. The pronoun someone uses might not always be obvious. The easiest way to find out? Share yours first. This is where those group introductions can come in handy, but if you’re just one-on-one, it’s as easy as saying, “By the way, I use he/him pronouns. What about you?”
Next, bathrooms. Bathrooms can be awkward spaces for trans people who are transitioning on the job and might have migrated from using one bathroom to another at work––or for nonbinary employees who don’t feel welcome in either the men’s room or the women’s room. Two things you can do are to ensure your company explicitly communicates that trans people are welcome to use the bathroom of their affirmed gender and also to make sure there are gender-neutral bathroom options, ones that are just as accessible as gendered ones. In other words, one gender-neutral bathroom on the third floor of a twelve-floor building isn’t going to cut it.
Third, advocate for your trans coworkers. If you’re watching this video, you’re off to a great start! Trans people are bombarded with invasive questions and tasked with educating people everywhere we go. Most of us just wish we could do our job and get through the workday without being misgendered or asked about our medical histories. Do your own research about trans and nonbinary people and help educate other employees to lessen the load on your trans coworkers.
Finally, while implementing these procedures is helpful, real change won’t happen unless everyone is on board. Ask your workplace to invest in cultural competency training for all employees, at all levels. Change happens when we understand why policies are being enacted and when we start to see each other with compassion and respect, despite our differences.
For more resources and tips on being good ally for trans and nonbinary people in your life, check out my book, SORTED.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like: 5 Ways to Support the Transgender People in Your Life
Jackson Bird is a YouTube creator and LGBTQ+ advocate dedicated to demystifying the transgender experience. His TED Talk “How to talk (and listen) to transgender people” has been viewed over a million times. Jackson is a recipient of the GLAAD Rising Star Digital Innovator Award and lives in New York City. You can follow him online @JackIsNotABird.