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Allyship for LGBTQI2S+ People

Language matters: Learning a new vocabulary

LGTQ2S is an acronym used in Canada to refer to various sexualities and gender identities that are not heterosexual and cisgender. In this case, the acronym refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, and Two Spirit. Related acronyms are LGBTQ or LQBTQI (I refers here to Intersex).

Inclusive leadership requires that we learn new vocabularies so as to not inadvertently exclude those who do not conform to a binary gender and heteronormative background. Talking about sexuality and gender expression can leave us feeling nervous as we try our best to not say the wrong thing. Below are some resources that will help you make conversations easier and help you acquire the language you need to be as respectful and accurate as possible.

PS: It is important to remember that the vocabulary in this area  can evolve rapidly and definitions can vary across communities and individuals!

Language is a key ingredient in a winning theory of change. Language can build bridges and change minds. By acknowledging the ability of language to shape and reflect reality, progressive campaigns can become more powerful vehicles for social change, inclusion, and justice. The following infographic shares some of the terms used by sex and gender identity justice activists and the terms they look to avoid.  

This image contains two tables, each containing terms used by sex and gender identity justice activists and the terms they look to avoid. In the list of terms they do use we find: A transgender person, Agender, Bigender, Crossdresser(if this is how the person self-identifies, but nos as a catchall), Gay, Gender affirmation, Sex Reassignment, Surgery, gender confirmation surgery, Genderfluid, Genderfuck,Genderless, Genderqueer, gray-A, Hen, Hijra, Humankind,humanity, Intersex, Kathoey, Muxe, Mx, non-binary, non-cisgender, cisgender, non-discrimination law, ordinance, non-gendered,sex work, sex worker,sexual orientation, slut, slut-shaming(if this is how a person or group self-identifies), they, them, their, third gender, trans woman, trans man, transgender (adj.), transgender people, transition, transitioning, and Two-spirit. For the terms avoided by sex and gender identity justice activists, there are : bathroom bill be a man, man up, berdache, feminazi, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) (offensive because it labels people as “disordered”), gender-bender, he-she, hermaphrodite, homosexual, it, lifestyle choice, mankind, non-straight, pre-operative, post-operative, prostitute, whore, sex change, sex change operation, sexual preference, sexual preference, she-male, shemale, shim, trannie, tranny, trans, a transgender, transgender (noun) transgendered (adj.), transgenders, transsexual , transexual (unless this is how the person self- identifies), transvestite (unless this is how the person self-identifies) and walk of shame.

Gender pronoun preference 
Using someone’s gender pronoun is an easy way to show your support for everyone’s right to live safely and well in their gender identity. The No Big Deal Campaign offers tools for people to show their support for transgender and/or nonbinary people and their pronouns in everyday life. I’ll use your pronoun, no big deal! 

Counteract gender stereotypes at work

In the following podcast, There’s More to Gender than Man and Woman, Lily Zheng talks about what she’s learned from studying the workplace experiences of people who identify as trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, butch, or gender-diverse in some other way. As described in the overview of the podcast,

Research shows that people who don’t conform to the gender binary are often mistreated by their colleagues, their managers, or HR. Some get fired, demoted, or shut out of the labour market altogether. If fewer people thought gender was restricted to “man” and “woman,” there’d be less discrimination, and we could all express ourselves however we want to

Lily points out how the gender binary can restrict cis people. Then she gives advice to managers and peers on how to be respectful and supportive of gender-diverse colleagues. 

How to be an ally to Trans People

A video by trans activist Chase Ross. Watch/listen:

A few items from the video:

  1. Don’t out a trans person
  2. Transgender is an adjective (don’t use it as a noun!)
  3. Don’t talk over trans people. Listen.
  4. Don’t ask questions without thinking about them first. Ask yourself, why am I asking this question?
  5. and learn the rest!


This image contains a text box which says: TRANSWHAT? Below, the words: “A guide towards allyship” is written in purple and blue letters

A guide to being an ally to trans people can be found on the TrasWhat? Website. There you can find a number of different actions that you can engage in that will help you treat trans people respectfully.

Tips to intervening on a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic attack

It is important to call out homophobia, biphobia or transphobia when one witnesses it.  Send the Right Message, a campaign of the LGBTQ Youth Initiative, has shared some useful tips on how to do so in a safe manner!

In situations where there are high levels of risk, be aware of these risks before you choose what you’re going to do. In situations with less immediate threats, such as someone saying a hurtful joke, you many consider explaining why the joke is hurtful and/or leaves people out. Remember you can be soft on the person but hard on the issue!

Some ways to intervene are :

  • Relate with your allyship journey . You can say “I used to think that way too, but I learned...”
  • Relate to the experience but not the tactic. For example, if a guy adds “no homo” to something he says, you could respond: “It sucks when people treat you like something you’re not” (validate feelings), “but ‘no homo’ is not a cool thing to say, cuz there’s nothing wrong with being gay” (challenge tactic).

FOLLOW: #LGBTQ #lgbtqcommunity #transgender #loveislove #lgbtqrights #trans @egalecanada @lgbtqnation