*Blog Series: Words Matter (Post 1)
Adults get very emotional about language: tone, intention, attitude, inflection, even method of communication (email, text, phone, meeting, tweet, etc.) and the mode of delivery (in a group, in a comment field on social media, in private, reply all, etc.) Who's included or not included to hear (or know) what's being said can also have an impact . . . but, regardless of the actual language spoken, it is often the words themselves that carry the true power.
All that other aforementioned "jargon junk" is what colors the words - albeit, favorably or unfavorably - giving them power or minimizing the power they already have.
As a local resident, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and as a professional in Human Resources for over twenty years, I can tell you that researching this particular blog-series has changed my perspective.
My profession and my town encourage inclusion, diversity, acceptance, belonging and equality.
Doing this research opened my mind even more and caused me to disrupt what I already know and to look at things differently.
I think it was the year 2012 when some people were offended when other people decided to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. I mean, think about that for a moment; that's just two English words being swapped for two different English words. The tremendous power the human race gave to those four English words bloomed into controversy.
Today, 2023, using (or not using) inclusive language when speaking with others can also offend and as society continues to evolve, the use or misuse of inclusive language blooms in its own unique way as well.
Communication has evolved with human beings for centuries.
If we flash back to the year 1886 -- this is just 6 years after Eureka Springs was incorporated as a city and just 10 years after Alexander Graham Bell patented the phone -- new homes were popping up all over town and people were flocking here. There was no internet, no radio (that was invented in 1895) and it is highly likely very few telephones that were just used by the super wealthy new residents that had purchased one shortly after being invented and produced and even in those instances, this mountain town hardly had the infrastructure for dealing with mud and fires let alone Bell's new invention.
People came to settle in Eureka Springs, drawn here by the healing waters, and bringing their own languages, words and beliefs.
It doesn't shock someone to think that what and how people spoke in 1886 would be drastically different to Eureka Springs 2023. Our minds can understand this concept and it's expected that this would be the case.
Yet, as things evolve, people are shocked when things move in a direction that they (personally) don't understand. So, rather than take time to learn and understand it more deeply, as to make better choices, often most will stay in the safe zone of what they already know, already believe and instead judge or resist that which they do not believe, know or care to know.
All this said, things are evolving and will continue to do so. Even here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas our communication, culture, beliefs, connections and social constructs have all evolved. Let me tell you this, my gay butt would not be here in Arkansas if it weren't for Eureka Springs.
In this blog-post, I simply want to do my part as a community member, a Eurekan, a human resources professional, and a kind-hearted human being to simply share this information with you.
It is 2023 and times are different. The words we use are different. How people speak to each other now is different.
This isn't rose-colored. This is real life. Evolution and change is real and expected, yet, people continue to resist and hold on to what's safe, what's known, what's always been understood and what we continue to believe.
I truly hope that, like me, you learn something from this information. In the depths of my research, I certainly did.
"People often disrespect others when they don't fully understand. I hope that this blog-series, WORDS MATTER, fosters both understanding and respect for all."
On the basis of their identity, LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to experience sexual violence, discrimination and hate crimes. It's my hope that, in our society, as we continue to advocate for equality, inclusion and human rights, people will include everyone that falls within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and recognize the different needs, identities and discriminations faced by different people.
This acronym indicates the spectrum of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual + other people who's identities are not heterosexual and cisgender.
Over the years there have been various versions of this acronym that include different letters to represent different groups. While some people consider the + to be insufficient, this symbol serves as a suffix to indicate others not explicitly covered in this acronym.
Of course, there are differing views, depending on context. In general, the ‘Q’ for queer indicates those who consider themselves ‘gender queer’ or ‘sexually queer’, although you may prefer to use different acronyms depending on your context.
Gender identity is how we see ourselves – our internal and personalized perception of our own gender. This may differ from the sex we were assigned at birth or how society might label us.
'Gay' is colloquial. It can refer to homosexual men and women, though many women prefer to identify with the term 'lesbian.'
Homosexual is the more technical term. As society evolves, most are becoming mindful to take into consideration the way that homosexual and bisexual people can experience life issues in different ways to heterosexual people, and may experience additional hardship as a result of discrimination on the basis of their sexuality.
The umbrella term, asexual, is used to describe people who exist within the asexual spectrum. An asexual person is a person of any gender or sexual orientation who does not experience sexual attraction. Awareness of asexuality has improved and asexual people are gaining more recognition within LGBTQIA+ movements. Note: some asexual people use the abbreviation, ACE, to describe themselves.
The term, intersex, is used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. Note: Intersex people identify as: male, female or non-binary
TRANS, TRANSGENDER, TRANSGENDER PEOPLE, TRANS WOMAN, TRANSGENDER WOMAN, TRANS MAN, TRANSGENDER MAN.
People whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth.
In a society that upholds the human rights to equality, freedom of expression, privacy and self-determination, we must respect how people wish to be referred.
For so many people across the world, respecting the gender identity of transgender people is now considered a societal norm however sometimes trans people experience confusion or deliberate misattribution of their gender.
Any work around diversity, equity, and inclusion requires a heightened awareness and consideration that might differently affect the rights and realities of transgender people. The terms ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’ are preferred over ‘transgendered’ since the latter implies that it is something that is done to people. While ‘transsexual’ has been used historically, and some people still identify with the term, many people consider it a slur and avoid it. Tranny is nothing more than derogatory slang and it is inappropriate.
Please note: It is inappropriate to use the acronym, LGBTQIA+, without the ‘T’ for transgender. Doing this has connotations of anti-trans movements that seek to erase transgender people from the LGBTQIA+ community and this is against the core values of equality and inclusion.
This is where things get complicated for many people so we will go back to basics and encourage you to simply do your very best to navigate yourself with others in the spirit of The Golden Rule - treating one as one wants to be treated.
A pronoun is a word we use in place of a ‘proper noun’, e.g. someone’s name. Often pronouns are words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation - for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.
In the context of LGBTQIA+ inclusion, it is quite supportive to make declaration of pronouns part of standard practice. Here's a good example: I put pronouns on my email signatures, in introductions and in meetings. By doing so we can avoid making assumptions about a person’s gender without having asked, and do not put the onus on people who use pronouns that are different to what might have been assumed to correct us, as this can cause an uncomfortable situation and contribute to feelings of gender dysphoria.
Some guidance for your life personally and professionally:
1. Don’t assume someone’s pronouns. If you aren’t ready or comfortable doing so, experts advise trying to use proper names.
2. Ask about preferred pronouns. It might feel awkward to ask for this information, but experts say that the act of asking for more information shows you care about addressing someone properly. Some examples of how to phrase the question:
“Hey, what are your pronouns?”
“What pronouns do you use?”
“I was just wondering how you’d like me to address you.”
“I just want to make sure I’m using the correct language to refer to you.”
3. Share your pronouns—and take the act seriously.
Pronouns can be woven into a variety of organizational databases, including internal employee directories, email signatures, job applications, Slack profiles, Twitter bios and more.
There is so much more to cover in this blog-series, WORDS MATTER, but I think this is a really solid beginning.
When I think of other powerful words that need more understanding by many, words like: ableism, instrumentalism, deadnaming, cis-normative, pro-choice, illegal migrants, victim of rape and so much more come to mind and will receive their attention in the coming posts of this blog-series.
Social change by its very nature is disruptive. Please join me in this journey as we seek to learn and understand things better in order to properly disrupt the comfort of the status quo in the hope of dismantling oppressive structures that do not create pathways to equality.
Learning new (disruptive) information can be a very challenging process but it is necessary to understand how power works within and beyond our words.
Words matter and I will personally forever endeavor to seek out ways where I can improve and harness the language I use in more productive, effective, empathetic ways when connecting with other human beings.
Put simply, doing so is an expression of love.❤️