How to Actually Include Folks of All Genders

If you are reading this, you are likely a well-meaning person who wants to treat trans and gender-non-binary folks with respect, and facilitate the inclusion of folks of all genders in your community.

In which case, here are some important things to consider:


1. A few key concepts

(I won’t assume everyone reading is equally well informed, and we all have to get our information somewhere.)

a. ‘Cisgender’ (or, ‘cis’) means ‘aligned with the gender a person was assigned at birth’. E.g. a person who thinks of themself as a woman, and who had an ‘F’ (or ‘female’) on their original birth certificate.

b. ‘Transgender’ (or, ‘trans’) means ‘not aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth’. E.g. someone who got an ‘M’ (or ‘male’) on their first birth certificate but who currently identifies as a woman or a non-binary person. Trans people are trans whether or not they’ve had surgery, hormone replacement, any other medical treatments, whether they dress in a way other people think is congruent with their gender, and whether they’ve updated their documents to reflect a new gender marker. (This last task can be quite hard to accomplish for trans people in some countries and some U.S. states, which do not allow or have draconian rules about who is allowed to change their gender marker — and is of course hard for non-binary people in most parts of the world, because most places still rely on featuring one of 2 binary options on most official documents. This is now just starting to change.)

c. ‘Non-binary’ refers to a person who does not consider themself 100% male of female. It’s an umbrella term that includes many non-binary genders, including ‘genderfluid’, ‘agender’, ‘bigender’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘polygender’, ‘neutrois’, ‘transfemme’, ‘grey-gender’, ‘genderflux’, ‘demigirl’, ‘demiboy’, ‘butch’, etc. (Please note though, not all butches consider themselves non-binary.) Non-binary people are sometimes referred to as enbies (from the abbreviation ‘NB’). Note: you can’t tell whether a person is non-binary (or any other gender) from their appearance.  Some enbies are very androgynous — but many others do not confuse sheltered cis folks by their appearance; we are often just read as cis men or cis women. And then misgendered accordingly. Yes, this is painful.

d. To expand on that last point: in our society, we often decide a person’s gender based on appearance and presentation (including their face, clothes, body shape and expression, voice, etc.).  This means we guess at someone’s internal experience of gender, based on imperfect external cues — when that person may not be able to change those cues (lack of money, neurodivergence, lack of practice, lack of access to medical transition options, etc.), may not want to (they know who they are, and don’t need external agreement/validation), or may be too worried for their personal safety to do so.  In the process of guessing and then acting on those guesses, we often misgender people.  E.g. that person you think is a (cis) man with long hair?  Could be a cis man, could be a trans woman, could be a transfeminine enby, could be a transmasculine enby, could be a trans man, could be an intersex person (who identifies as any of a myriad genders)…  Gendering folks without their input is a supercommon yet very imprecise process, with painful ramifications for those unconsulted folks.  Please ponder this.

e. ‘AMAB’ means ‘assigned male at birth’. ‘AFAB’ means ‘assigned female at birth’. Both these acronyms reference which sex/gender was written into a person’s original birth certificate — a gender which turned out to be inaccurate for non-cisngeder people. People sometimes use ‘DMAB’ or ‘DFAB’ instead, where the D stands for ‘designated’. (The concept is the same though.) Using these acronyms is preferable to saying ‘born male’ or ‘born female’, which is inaccurate and insulting. More on this later.

f. Finally, some folks argue that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are very different concepts, and designate ‘sex’ as biologically ingrained and immutable, and ‘gender’ as a brain experience. Many trans people (me included) don’t agree with this: we are all assigned a ‘sex’ at birth, and it is not a complex procedure. Literally all that happens is that a doctor or birth attendant looks at a baby’s genitals for a second, and says “boy” or “girl”, and that determines which gendered letter is put on the birth certificate. ‘Sex’ is not, as many folks think, unchangeable or binary. At all. Many people fall in between the two categories, in various ways, and move between them over their lives. There are 5 categories that are commonly considered when assigning sex — but 4 of them can be changed (hormones, genitals, gonads, secondary sex characteristics). Only our chromosomes cannot — and they are rarely examined at birth, plus also come in non-binary options! (XXY, XXX, XYY, X, etc.)


2. Everything that’s gendered will be a problem for:

non-binary-gendered folks, binary trans people (trans women and trans men) who are sometimes or frequently misgendered, androgynously presenting binary folks, and everyone else who deviates from our strict gender norms.

Our society polices gender all the time. If you are a cis, gender-conforming person (so, for example, a feminine woman or a masculine man), you are probably unaware of the extent of this. But every time a man (or a person assumed to be male) is called sissy or mocked for being feminine, that’s gender policing in action. Every time a person is questioned for using a washroom that folks think that person ‘doesn’t belong in’, that’s gender policing. Every time a person is asked “what are you?” by total strangers who are having trouble figuring out which binary gender box to assign them to, that’s gender policing. Sometimes, gender policing is ‘only’ hurtful, causing feelings of alienation and injuring self-esteem; sometimes it leads to violence or systemic or organisational discrimination. It’s something that needs to be resisted all of the time.

If you have any power to affect public spaces, including non-profit organisations or workplaces — whether you are in charge of a space, or have good activist pull and can organise pressure on an administration — please make sure that your space isn’t divided into 2 binary genders. If it is, that will leave some folks out. And there might be reasons, important to you or your community, for binary-dividing your space — maybe it’s an Orthodox Jewish shul or a traditional mosque; maybe it’s a women’s gym, or a women-only spoken word event — but do be aware that following your tradition, or making some folks safe, will happen at the expense of the inclusion of some other folks who are oppressed around gender.

Some common issues to try changing here if you can:

a. Make sure at least some of the washrooms available on site are gender-neutral. This will benefit non-binary folks, as well as anyone whose gender is perceived as ambiguous or non-conforming (binary trans people who are not read as cis, butch women, gender-variant men, etc.).

b. Make sure of the same for change rooms and locker rooms. If it’s not possible to provide mixed-gender locker rooms, either make sure you have gender-neutral changing-and-clothes-storing options available (e.g. a single-stall washroom + lockers in a non-segregated area), or make it clear to everyone that no one’s gender will be policed upon entering whichever locker room they choose. This last option is of course less ideal because it still forces enbies to choose a binary gender option to ID with. Don’t underestimate the intensity of dysphoria and alienation this can cause some folks.

If you do promise no gender policing on your site or in your organisation, do follow through with enforcing this rule.  Don’t tolerate shaming or questioning folks about their gender; stop all transphobic remarks or behaviour cold.  Make public your organisation’s clear policy on this, hold staff education about the policy so they can act as upholders of the policy, and to make sure they themselves don’t perpetrate transphobia, and formulate a clear disciplinary process you will follow when folks are mistreated or harassed.

c. Don’t divide folks by gender for classroom lineups (even small children can be non-binary or binary trans), study groups, sports teams, etc. Find other creative ways of making up small groups or teams. Ask yourself: if my group was 90% one gender, would I still be dividing them along gender lines? If not, consider what you would do then. And do it in any situation. Please. You will ease a lot of folks’ lives. Not all of them will tell you how happy they are; not everyone can be out, and in some/many circumstances, folks can take time to acknowledge to themselves that they are trans and/or non-binary. Our culture is very harsh on gender-non-conformers.

d. Make sure that any paperwork for a program you are in charge of (or at least have the power to affect) is gender-neutral.  This is relatively easy to do, and will have a significant positive impact on gender-variant folks filling it out.  This can include:

(i) Permission slips for kids’ activities should ask the names of ‘Parent/guardian 1’, and ‘Parent/guardian 2’, rather than ‘mother’ and ‘father’. (Also, definitely consider what you’ll do for kids who only have one caretaker at home. Don’t insist on ‘2 people must sign this form, no matter what’.)

(ii) Online or paper form should not ask for folks’ gender. 99% of the time there is absolutely no reason you need this information.

If you believe that you are among the 1% and absolutely do need it, be transparent and list your reasons right next to the gender box. Plus make sure gender can be written in, or that you provide an ‘other’ option, in addition to ‘male’ and ‘female’. Plus still offer folks an option to appeal your need for this information, e.g. by providing a phone number or email address they can use to contact someone.  Asking that folks gender themselves, especially for eternity/a long time, where it will be difficult to change later, can be really stressful for folks still in transition, or who are currently stealth about being trans in some parts of their lives.

(iii) Forms should also not demand that folks to choose a gendered title (e.g. ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Mr’).  This is outdated, and unnecessary.  (Many forms already allow the use of ‘Dr.’ as a gender-neutral honorific, and the fabric of society has not broken down now that folks of all genders are using it — so do allow that option also to people who do not have a doctorate or degree in medicine?)  If you feel the need to use honorifics for your customers, parents, etc., use ‘Mx’ for everyone — a gender-neutral title now officially recognised in most major English-language dictionaries, and accepted in government usage in some English-speaking countries.  Or you could just use the person’s full name.  (This also works for use in formal letters or emails.  E.g. “Dear Jesse Ahmed”, or “Dear Mx Kowalska”.)

e. Don’t randomly gender strangers — especially in ways that impact them. Yes, our brains have been trained to do that in our society, especially based on folks’ appearance, and it’s hard to turn off, but we all can at least change our behaviour, the ways in which we interact with others. (I cannot emphasise enough: you simply cannot accurately diagnose someone’s gender based on how they look, sound, or dress. Most trans and non-binary people daily experience the hurtful results of people thinking they can.) Some specific things you could change:

(i) When meeting new people, you could use ask which pronouns they like for themselves. This is only awkward if you make it awkward. Example of an introduction: “Steven, this is my coworker Kris. Kris, this is my friend Steven.” “It’s nice to meet you, Steven. What pronouns do you use? Mine are ze and hir.”

(ii) Also, you could check if the folks you’re interacting with are wearing pronoun pins or necklaces. Then refer to them using those pronouns. (But don’t make assumptions about their gender.)

(iii) If the person you are referring to, especially in front of them, hasn’t shared their pronouns with you (maybe this is a casual interaction with a stranger), you could call them ‘they’ as a placeholder. If they correct you, and ask that you use a different pronoun, use that. Trust me, this is still less awkward than binary-misgendering people.

I’ve often heard the argument that since no polite person would talk about others in the third person in front of them, why would we police how we are talked about when we are not present?  The answer is: actually, people discuss us in the third person in front of us  All The Time.  E.g. “I think he was here first.”  “This lady was waiting to talk to you.  She wants to know…”  “It’s nice to meet you, Masha.  How do you know Kay?  I met them through…”  “They assumed you were my husband! And I laughed and said ‘No, he and I aren’t married.’”

This is why pronouns are so important to get right. The people affected can hear you getting them wrong.

(iv) If you are in the service industry, I know it’s often expected to say “sir” or “ma’am” to each customer — but many places will also allow their employees to say “Hello, welcome to _____, how may I assist you today?”, or other non-gendering polite expressions. If your workplace is one of those, please consider it?

(v) Instead of trying to get a stranger’s attention with “Sir?” or “Ma’am?” or “Miss?”, you could try “Excuse me?” or “Hi.”

(vi) If you use “sir” or “ma’am” as terms of address when you don’t know a person’s name, or to be more respectful, you could instead just use more formal language. Drop contractions, use longer words, and sprinkle your speech liberally with “thank you very much” and “excuse me, I’m wondering if…”. It will do just as good a job of conveying your respect.

(vii) As mentioned in the section on paperwork, please retire gendered honorifics (‘Miss’, ‘Ms’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Mr’).  Either use ‘Mx’, or just the person’s full name.

(viii) Is it vitally important for the story you’re telling that you thought that stranger was a woman or a man? No? Consider skipping that part of the description, and use ‘person’ (or, ‘customer’, ‘client’, ‘cashier’, etc.) instead. This will help signal to folks in your social circle that gender does not have to be an important part of every story — and help you practice not gendering people.

(ix) When trying to include non-binary people in women-only spaces, don’t phrase it as ‘all women-identified people are welcome’ or ’we include non-binary people as long as they feel aligned with womanhood/as long as they identify as women’. You are missing the point, trivialising our identity, and further perpetuating our exclusion. If we identified as women, we wouldn’t be non-binary. I am guessing such spaces are trying to include trans women, and maybe are even okay with some non-binary assigned-female-at-birth people — but are trying to exclude assigned-male-at-birth enbies and anyone else whose gender they might feel confused about. The thing is, if your space is trying to genuinely include all people who experience gendered oppression, you need to include all enbies. Yes, even those who make you anxious about ‘male energy’. (Please, just retire using that concept. It’s not useful.)

There will of course be some spaces who serve very particular, very marginalised populations — which will gatekeep in order to keep their members safe. (E.g. support or social groups for trans women and transfeminine enbies only.) But if your group is working hard to keep out folks who experience even more social stigma and violence than your welcomed members — e.g. a queer women’s group which is resistant to welcoming trans women and transfeminine enbies — I hope you might examine your case for exclusion, and rethink it if your reasons aren’t stronger than ‘well, those folks make us uneasy’ or oppressive stereotypes such as ‘AMAB people bring male energy with them, so…’


3. Pay attention to the gender-infused language you use every day.

Our society encourages frequent use of needlessly gendered words and of biologically essentialist concepts as a way to make sense of (but really, reduce) human diversity. Some ideas here:

a. Basic courtesy, aka not being biologically essentialist:

(i) Don’t say that someone was ‘born male’ or ‘born female’. People are born babies.  (H/t Janet Mock.) Those babies have sets of genitals that are their business and shouldn’t really be announced to the outside world. But instead, doctors take a split-second look at them, and put an M or F on their birth certificate. That is really all that at-birth gender assignment is — a doctor commenting on a baby’s genitals. (This gets a little complicated for intersex babies. Despite the fact that their genitals or their combinations of genitals & chromosomes, or genitals & hormones, can make them difficult to throw into just one of the M or F boxes, doctors do so anyway. And sometimes/often talk the parents into doing corrective surgery, on infants, so their genitals ‘match’ their gender assignment better!)

So, if you want to use the phrase ‘born [this gender]’, ask yourself what you are really trying to convey: is it relevant to the story which genitals the person was born with? If you’re trying to talk about how they were socialised (folks assigned female at birth will often be raised differently than folks assigned male at birth), then talk about their socialisation. (E.g. ‘coercively socialised female’.) You can also often say ‘assigned male/female at birth’ (sometimes abbreviated to AMAB and AFAB), but first, consider whether that is relevant information. Often it’s not.

And remember, at-birth gender assignment is usually based on genitals, which means that you are now indirectly communicating about this person’s genitals. Do you need to be?

(ii) Don’t say ‘male-bodied’, ‘born in a female body’, etc. Bodies don’t really have gender.

If you mean to talk about someone’s hormones — which are what’s largely responsible for the ‘sex differences’ that are talked about in medical research — then make sure you actually know what those hormones are. Cis women and men can have higher or lower amounts of the hormones they were born with, than expected. Trans binary and non-binary people can take hormones to transition. But you don’t know which do — which means you once again cannot assume. Ask, if it is your business. Otherwise, speak in generalities. E.g “people with significant levels of estrogen experience higher risks of some cancers.” (This is equally true for cis women with average hormone levels — and cis women, trans women, and non-binary people who take replacement estrogen.)

If you are trying to talk about the shape of someone’s body — for example, for the purposes of finding appropriate clothing or footwear — then saying which body features you mean is a lot more helpful than saying ‘female-bodied’ or ‘male body’. Say ‘wide hips’ or ‘large breasts’ or ‘flat chest’ or ‘wide chest’ or ‘round stomach’ or ‘big abdomen’ or ‘short legs’ or ‘big feet’. And trust me, those things do not correspond exactly to binary genders.

If you mean secondary-sex characteristics, talk about those? Say ‘facial hair’ or ‘Adam’s apple’ or ‘breasts’ or ‘flared hips’. And, again, things we often perceive as strictly matching one of or the other of the two binary boxes, aren’t necessarily. Cis men can have breast growth. Cis women can have facial hair or no hip curves. People of all genders can have or lack pronounced Adam’s apple.

Just be specific about body features if you need to be. And otherwise, don’t comment on people’s bodies as a shortcut to making them feel alien, and yourself normal.

b. Replace gendered phrasings whenever possible. Of course, sometimes the gender of the person will be relevant to the story. But many times it won’t be, and for those times here’s a substitution guide:

(i) You can use ‘siblings’ instead of ‘sisters’, ‘brothers’, or ‘brothers and sisters’.

(ii) Use ‘my child’ or ‘my teenager’ instead of ‘my son’ or ‘my daughter’, etc.

(iii) Use ‘parent’ (or ‘guardian’, ‘caretaker’, where it might be relevant) instead of ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

(iv) Use ‘grandparent’ for ‘grandmother’ or ‘grandfather’.

(v) For any relatives whose titles don’t currently have widely known un-gendered equivalents (e.g. aunt, uncle), you can use ‘relative’ — or ‘young relative’ (for e.g. niece or nephew) if an age difference is important to convey.

(vi). Use ‘spouse’, ‘partner’, ‘lover’, ‘date’, ‘mate’, ‘person I am/they are dating’, instead of ‘wife’, ‘husband’, ‘boyfriend’, ‘girlfriend’.

(vii) Use ‘actor’, ‘waiter’, ‘flight attendant’, etc. for all genders — instead of sometimes using ‘actress’, ‘waitress’, ‘stewardess’. Gendering the names of occupations is so unnecessary; it’s the same job no matter who’s doing it.

(viii) Please stop using sexist gendered words — like ‘manwhore’, ‘himbo’, ‘boyslut’, ‘male prostitute’, etc. If slut or bimbo are words you want to use, I suggest checking with folks if they’re okay being referred to that way; if not, find other words altogether? And if yes, don’t use them in ways that makes it clear they ‘really’ only apply to women (and so attaching them to men is therefore unusual and funny). Also, please don’t ever use the word ‘prostitute’. ‘Sex worker’, or sometimes ‘escort’, is generally how those professionals want to be referred to.

c. When commenting on or repeating narratives where folks’ gender is announced, but by third parties who don’t actually know how those people identified (e.g. history lessons, Torah & other scripture commentary, etc.), don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know what reproductive organs or genitals those folks had — and try to remember that you don’t actually know the gender of historical figures at all.

For example, there have been many historical accounts of ‘passing women’ — folks said to have been born with vulvas, but who deliberately dressed and presented themselves as male to the outside world. A common narrative about those folks has been that they were women trying to keep themselves safe or trying to access privileges reserved for men. (Often, with a side of “it was only at her death that doctors doing the autopsy found out she was a woman” type of gender essentialism.) We don’t actually know that. They could have also been trans men, or non-binary people, who were dressing and presenting the way they were for their personal comfort, and/or for the place in society they were comfortable occupying. So, don’t make the ‘passing women’ story the only story we tell about those people. Make it clear we do not know their gender story.

d. When making conclusions from historical or current or other cultural stories, don’t conflate gender with genitals and/or reproductive organs. E.g., not every woman has a uterus. Not every person with a uterus is a woman. So, don’t assume that ‘reproductive rights are women’s rights’, or that every woman can relate to stories about uteruses. Likewise, not every woman has a vulva; not all people with penises are men. Therefore, penises are not ‘weapons’ or ‘signs of manhood’, etc. When cis women jokingly say, in response to gender-based systemic oppression, “You can bet that if I grew a penis, I’d be listened to more and get more respect and earn more money” — this is not true. Ask trans women (some of whom have kept their penises). As they transition, their salaries tend to shrink to match the salaries of cis women of their race, and the respect and listening attention they experience goes down as well. Trans men tend to have a somewhat opposite experience: as they transition, and are read as cis men more often, their salaries rise (slightly), and the respect they are granted goes up. It is not actually genitals or reproductive organs that create, or lead to, gender-based oppression. It is how people are perceived, and taxonomised.

e. When talking about gender-based oppression, be clear and precise which groups are actually affected. Otherwise you leave people out. And those of us who are not cisgender experience this erasure many many times a day. Please don’t participate in it.

(i) ‘Violence against women’ actually affects all people perceived as women or treated as women. So, higher rates of sexual & domestic violence and sexual harassment happen to: cis women, trans women, most non-binary people of all NB genders (the small minority who are usually perceived as cis men tend to avoid street harassment, but will often experience higher rates of partner or acquaintance violence), and gender-non-conforming men. So, say ‘gender-based violence’ or ‘violence against feminised people’. (‘Feminised’, like ‘racialised’, refers to the non-consensual process society applies to people when it taxonomises us, and puts us in specific gender or race boxes — and decides, based on that taxonomy, how well it will treat us.)

(ii) The political threat to abortion rights generally affects people with uteruses. (So, women who have uteruses, enbies with uteruses, men with uteruses.) So, use ‘people with uteruses’.

(iii) Workplace discrimination and the pay gap are generally based on how people are perceived. So, if someone is read as a woman, or someone who could be a woman (this includes androgynous people, non-binary people, trans men read sometimes as women, etc.), they will experience this, regardless of how they identify, or what gender marker is on their ID. I suggest using ‘feminised people’ in this instance as well.

(iv) When talking about ‘men’, be clear who you mean. If it’s ‘people with penises who experience male privilege’, then you are talking about ‘cisgender men’. Say that. If you mean ‘people read as cis men’, in the context of, e.g. talking about who doesn’t experience much street harassment — then say that. (People who are assumed to be men, but ones who are flouting gender norms — gender-variant men, some trans women, some non-binary people — experience rates of street harassment comparable to, or even higher than, women and folks read as women.)

f. Don’t talk about ‘both genders’, ‘the two sexes’, ‘both men and women’, ‘the opposite sex’ — or use other phrasings that support the gender binary and ruthlessly erase non-binary and gender-divergent people.

Also, don’t use phrasings like ‘the stronger sex’ or ‘the fairer sex’ — which not only reinforce the gender binary, but are also ickily sexist.


4. Acknowledge the diversity of bodies.

…In general, and in particular when it comes to sexual and reproductive parts. Though also please make sure that you don’t inappropriately talk about people’s bodies and sexual parts when it’s not your business.

Different people — especially non-cisgender people — might call their sexual and reproductive parts by different names than commonly taught. If you are a person whose business it would be — a sexual partner or a health worker providing sexually or reproductively related health care — ask the person you are interacting with what they call their parts.

For example, a person born with a vagina might refer to it as ‘vagina’ or ‘front hole’. A person born with a clitoris might call it that, or might call it a ‘dick’, ‘penis’, ‘boy budgie’, etc., especially but not necessarily if they’re on testosterone. People who have breast growth, might call them ‘breasts’, ‘boobs’, ‘chest’, ‘man boobs’, ‘boy tits’, etc. A transfeminine person with a penis might refer to it as a ‘penis’, ‘girldick’, ‘clit’, etc. Let folks determine what their parts will be called.

And don’t force them to talk about their bodies, ever, if they don’t want to. This is their consent to give or withhold. Honour that. In fact, don’t even ask questions about their sexual or reproductive parts if you are a stranger whose medical advice they haven’t explicitly asked. Yes, this includes being a doctor at a hospital where you are treating a person for a broken leg. Their genitals are really not relevant to that conversation. (If you need to ask about their hormone levels — which might be relevant to that broken leg — that is still a quite different conversation from asking about their junk.)


5. Use discretion, be kind, be an ally.

Don’t dehumanise; don’t make folks feel like freaks; don’t let your curiosity or discomfort be more important than our wellbeing; don’t risk our safety; don’t stand silently by while we are shamed or injured by transphobes. Some specifics:

a. Don’t ask nosy questions. If folks want you to know facts about their genitals or other body parts, their gender, or their surgeries, they will tell you.

b. Asking people’s pronouns is good ally behaviour; inferring pretty much anything about our gender or bodies from those pronouns — isn’t.

c. If someone does trust you with information about their gender/trans status/genitals/bodily changes they are undertaking or have completed — please do your best to prove to them that they were not mistaken to trust you. Don’t assume everyone else knows. Check before sharing the information, or referring to it, with anyone else. Yes, this includes not making ‘inside jokes’ or ‘subtle’ implications about the person’s body or trans status in groups or in public. Always always pause, reflect, check in. People die sometimes because sensitive information, badly shared, stirred someone’s transphobia. (This especially happens to trans women or transfeminine enbies.  Most trans murder victims are transfeminine folks of colour.) Don’t be that catalyst.

d. Don’t compliment trans/NB folks on how well we ‘perform’ our gender. (Unless we’ve specifically asked you to.)  If it wouldn’t be a compliment when given to a cis person of that gender, it probably isn’t to a trans person either. E.g. “You’re as pretty as a real girl.” “You pass really well.” Etc. If you’re not sure what compliment would feel good to a particular trans person of your acquaintance — you could just ask.

e. Don’t ever ask folks “What are you?” This is equally applicable to being curious about folks’ gender, race, ethnic origin… Just. Don’t.

f. Stand up for folks being misgendered, shamed, or mocked around their gender.  Role-model caring about folks’ correct pronouns (practice using unfamiliar pronouns till you can do it in public without awkwardness or quotes), and using gender-neutral references to folks whose gender you do not know for sure.  Interrupt and redirect folks asking inappropriate questions.  Where relevant, draft or help pass policies that enshrine our rights to not be harassed or misgendered.  Protest unwarranted gendering by institutions.

Inclusion is meaningless without showing us that you will act to help keep us safe once we are in your spaces, or your lives.


6. Final remarks / Summary:

a. Be respectful. Work to stop yourself from unnecessarily gendering people and from making generalising gendered statements.

b. Ask people’s pronouns, instead of assuming what they are. Even if you think it’s obvious. It is not in fact obvious.

c. Don’t make assumptions about individual people’s genitals, hormone levels, surgeries, etc. But also: don’t ask folks with whom you are not super close, about these things. They are private. Learn to live with your uncertainty.

d. Help protect folks from transphobia in your spaces/communities, and role-model genuinely welcoming behaviour towards us.

e. If practicing gender-based segregation or exclusion, be clear as to your reasons. Consider whether you need to. Don’t segregate or exclude folks just because it’s ‘always been done this way’ or because it feels easier. And, figure out what you’re going to do about non-binary people ahead of time; don’t make us do the emotional labour of trying to figure out our place in your group/organisation, or persuading you to assign us one.


7. Some further reading:

How to Be Human: Talking to People Who Are Transgender or Nonbinary

Glossary of Transgender, Non-Binary and Genderqueer Words

How Can We Include Non-Binary People in Gendered Spaces?

The 519’s Media Reference Guide: Discussing Trans and Gender-diverse People (clicking the link triggers a pdf download)

8 Common (But Easily Fixable) Ways We Erase Non-Binary People from Society

Trans women are not “biologically male” (a video by a transfeminine vlogger, with a clear exposition on why ‘sex’ is a social construct, like ‘gender’; with closed captions. If you need to read a transcript instead of captions, one is embedded below Riley’s video in this everyday feminism article.)

3 Reasons Why Folks Who Don’t ‘Look’ Non-Binary Can Still Be Non-Binary

What I Learned from Being Non-Binary While Still Being Perceived as a Man

Gender-Neutral Titles

It’s Time For People to Stop Using the Social Construct of “Biological Sex” to Defend Their Transmisogyny

2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: Executive Summary, issued December 2016 (covers experiences of violence, experiences with getting proper ID, health and poverty disparities)

Violence Against Trans People in Canada: A Primer

Report on experiences of non-binary people, as reported for the National Transgender Discrimination Survey

An extract of some statistics from the above


[Photo description: a plethora of paper stars in all the shades of the rainbow.]


Edited 25 I 2018, for minor stylistic errors, and to briefly clarify a few points; 27 I 2018, to further clarify, and add a few extra points (on gender-neutral titles, the inaccuracy of gendering-on-sight, and how inclusion needs to include standing up for our rights and safety); and 29 I 2018 to reorganise some sections for flow, and add AFAB & AMAB to definitions provided in section #1.

Leave a Reply