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June is Pride Month, and the latest edition of the Becoming Inclusive podcast marks the occasion with an in-depth conversation on The Power of Pronouns featuring special guest Jeffery B. Strader, Director of the LGBTQ+ Practice at The Kaleidoscope Group.
According to a 2019 study by Pew Research, one in five (1/5) U.S. adults know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. While these statistics may have changed since the publication of this study, it does provide context for this important discussion on how something as simple as correct pronoun use can have a major impact on making progress in fostering truly inclusive and equitable workplaces.
This episode dives into the details of evolving pronoun usage and the importance of bridging generational gaps to provide people with the time and space needed to get it right without being harshly judged or criticized as we try to adapt their verbiage, mindsets, and communication styles.
Host Reggie Ponder got the ball rolling by admitting that as an “old head” he often struggles to get it right, and sometimes even gets frustrated. It was an important acknowledgment that mirrors the sentiments of some within his generation – as well as many younger people. The study by Pew Research also found younger Americans were more familiar with the use of gender-neutral pronouns; with 73 percent (73%) of 18 – 29-year-olds saying they hear a lot (37%) or a little (36%) about it. In contrast, those numbers drop dramatically as age increases; with 54 percent (54%) of 50 – 64-year-olds having some familiarity and only 46 percent (46%) of people 65+ being familiar with gender-neutral pronouns.
While those numbers may not be surprising, they do frame the conversation well by allowing for opportunities to explain why pronouns are a key part of the larger inclusion journey. We know that pronouns span more than just gender-neutral terminology and that intersectionality between dimensions of difference can pose separate challenges for people. Strader does an excellent job of tackling some pointed questions from the Host and Co-Host, including tough questions.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
One of the main points made by Strader, and Co-Host Kat Potts, was being aware that we need to give people the time and space to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” As Strader puts it, “this is about a journey, and we all fumble . . . no one is perfect.” Strader makes an excellent point, and this sets the tone for this episode. We must respect the journey that people are on, no matter what. We can demonstrate our support through active listening and by our actions being consciously inclusive, making sure we are intentionally not attacking or invalidating the journey that people are on.
Ask, Apologize, & Advocate
In addition to explaining why correct pronoun usage is critical to acknowledge the authenticity of our peers and colleagues, Strader offered some fundamental tips to help people embrace this evolving verbiage through practice and open dialogue, including:
- Ask when you are unsure, lead by modeling the behavior by sharing your pronouns
- Apologize when you make a mistake, lead with respectful and come from a genuine place
- Advocate when you notice incorrect pronoun usage, lead with the bigger picture in mind
Many viewers will find this edition of Becoming Inclusive not only timely but highly enlightening as it clears up common misconceptions about changing pronoun usage in the workplace and beyond. And as Strader summed it up, the ultimate goal is to have people more easily transition through the process of tolerance and acceptance until arriving at the ultimate destination of celebrating individuality.
Click here to learn more about the LGBTQ+ practice
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