24/02/2021
Written by Emma Symonds

This LGBT History Month we have been on a journey of discovery, some might say a Rainbow splashed journey!

We have flown the LGBT Flag in recognition of any staff or patient who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transsexual + (LGBT), attended many interesting webinars hosted by our Inclusion partners and shared updated learning in the Statutory Training session. What you may not have been aware of is that we have been working hard to identify areas in the hospital which could be assigned as gender neutral toilets for both staff and patients. We hope that this small step forward will lead to bigger things in the not too distant future.

I am sure that there has been lots of information that has also sparked your interest, I know I’ve had many questions that have led to long conversations with my husband and my mom. Many of those chats have been about Gender identity and pronouns.

So what is Gender Identity and why is it different to sex?

Sex is what you are assigned at birth based upon your physical anatomy. This will be a boy or a girl in most cases. There are cases where babies are born with both “sexes” but that would take this conversation down a different path so let’s stick with the “norm”.

Gender Identity is about how a person identifies to their own gender.

Most people’s gender identity will align with their given identity assigned at birth. The term for this is Cisgender. Cis” in Latin means “on the side of”.

People who are Transgender or Non Binary do not always align with the identity they are assigned with at birth. They may feel strongly about a male identity, a female identity or a combination of both. This is where the importance of pronouns comes in and where we need to be considerate when referring to a colleague, patient or family member.

Pronouns are words used to refer to someone in place of their name, for example:

He, him, his (Masculine)

She, her, hers (Feminine)

They, Them, Their (Neutral) – Used when referring to a single person

Some transgender people will use the masculine or female pronouns as they settle into their gender but others may be more comfortable using the neutral pronouns. It is not for a transgender individual to explain or defend their pronoun but for us to accept and be respectful.

Why is it important to consider pronouns?

A pronoun is related to someone’s gender, so using them incorrectly can lead to misgendering a person, whether it’s unintended or not. Misgendering is when you refer to someone as the wrong pronoun for example:

When introducing John, who uses the pronouns Them, you say “Hello Guys, I’d like you to meet John, He is joining my team today”

You can respond in two ways in this occasion. The first being to apologise

“Ops Sorry John, They are joining my team today”

Or…ignoring it and not acknowledging your mistake.

Now I know you guys have read a few of my blogs and I know you’ve already made the right choice. By acknowledging that you made an error but correcting it not only did you make John feel validated and important but you have set the tone with your other colleagues and have pushed  the YDH inclusion plan that little bit further.

By ignoring the incorrect use of a pronoun you are dismissing a person and showing them you do not value them. This can be harmful and distressing for the person but also risks “outing” them. To be “out” means that a person has shared their gender identity and is comfortable “out” in society as the person they wish to be. It’s important to be mindful that this does not mean that the person has come out to everyone. They may choose to come out to certain people only.

Using correct pronouns is about respect. If you are unsure, you can ask but please be mindful that a person may be mid transition, may not be “out” and may be fluid with their pronoun.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

You can take steps to create a more inclusive, supportive environment for your colleagues and for patient in small ways:

  • Add your pronouns to your email signature
  • Attend inclusion training and targeted webinars
  • Set up a Staff Network or join one as an ally
  • Wear the rainbow lanyard to demonstrate your allyship
  • Don’t assume- ask if you are unsure. We are often worried of causing offense; but it’s more offensive to wrongly presume
  • Use the correct pronoun once you are aware, ensuring that any documentation related to gender identity is correct. This is especially important for those going through transgender surgery, before and after.

You can contact the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advisor for any training needs, rainbow lanyards or to discuss Staff Networks by contacting Emma Symonds on  emma.symonds@ydh.nhs.uk