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19 Jun 2024

LGBTQ+

A Guide To LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language In The Workplace

Embracing LGBTQ+ inclusive language creates a supportive workplace.

Businesses of all sizes should strive to build a culture of respect and inclusivity.

It is a business’s responsibility to create a safe and supportive workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+) employees.

When individuals use LGBTQ+ inclusive language in the workplace, they demonstrate respect for LGBTQ+ people and help to build a more inclusive culture.

Adopting inclusive language in the workplace not only benefits LGBTQ+ employees but also everyone within the organisation.

What Is LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language?

In short, LGBTQ+ inclusive language acknowledges and respects the diversity of people in the workplace, including their bodies, genders, and relationships.

While many people refrain from using offensive language, especially while at work, there are numerous instances where seemingly innocent language can impact people and make them feel uncomfortable or excluded in the workplace.

Embracing LGBTQ+ inclusive language is just one of the various ways to create a more supportive workplace culture. 

Strategies To Foster Inclusive Language At Work

Strategies to foster inclusive language at work include, but are not limited to:

  1. Use gender-neutral language
  2. Avoid assuming everyone is heterosexual or straight
  3. Normalise sharing pronouns
  4. Acknowledge diversity 
  5. Learn from mistakes 

1. Use Gender-Neutral Language 

It’s important to use gender-neutral language when possible in the workplace.

What Is An Example Of Gender Neutral Language?

Instead of using “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls” as a turn of phrase, “everyone” is an example of a gender netural word that’s more inclusive.

While there are some circumstances when using gendered language is appropriate, you mustn’t make assumptions about someone’s gender.

If you don’t know someone’s gender, using standard, gender-neutral words is best.

2. Avoid Assuming Everyone Is Heterosexual Or Straight

Not everyone is heterosexual or straight, and assuming everyone is can have an array of negative impacts on the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

You should avoid using language such as “wife” or “husband” that automatically assumes all relationships are heterosexual. 

Instead, you should use neutral terms such as “partner” or “spouse” that are more inclusive.

You should also never make assumptions about a person’s sexuality based on stereotypes, their appearance, or how they present themselves.

3. Normalise Sharing Pronouns

Pronouns are ‘what you use to address other people when you’re not using names’.

Asking people how they wish to be addressed if you are speaking to them or on their behalf is important, as using the correct pronouns helps support others in affirming their gender identity.

While this might seem like a small step, normalising sharing pronouns plays a fundamental role in fostering inclusive language at work.

That said, sharing personal pronouns should remain optional, as certain individuals might be uncomfortable with this, particularly if they’re questioning their gender identity.

If you know a person’s name but not their pronouns, use their name or ‘they/them’ instead until you can confirm with them privately.

To learn more about why pronouns are important in the workplace, be sure to read our blog. 

4. Acknowledge Diversity 

Acknowledging diversity is crucial to fostering more inclusive language in the workplace.

It’s your responsibility to gain a broader understanding of LGBTQ+ communities and what the acronym stands for and represents. However, many workplaces can assist in educating their employees on LGBTQ+ matters.

When using inclusive language, it’s essential to think about the intersections of an individual’s identity, from race to sexual orientation to religion.

The importance of using language with an awareness of the diversity within and between groups of people cannot be understated when fostering a more inclusive working environment.

5. Learn From Mistakes 

It’s okay to make mistakes, as we’re all only human, but it’s important that you learn from them.

Employees might worry about offending someone for using the wrong name, term, or pronoun.

While using respectful and inclusive language in the workplace is crucial, making some mistakes is understandable when you learn from them.

Once you acknowledge your mistakes, don’t dwell on them, as this can make others uncomfortable. 

That said, it’s important to avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly, as this can indicate a lack of respect and, if it continues, constitute discrimination.

How We Can Help

June is Pride Month. At Harding Evans, we’re sponsors of Pride Cymru and are proud to support LGBTQ+ communities across South Wales and beyond, offering legal services specifically tailored to their needs.

For LGBTQ+ legal advice, please contact a member of our team today.

Alternatively, you can read our related blogs, such as why LGBTQ+ inclusion is important in the workplace, to learn more.

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