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This section emphasises the significance / importance of using the correct pronouns when starting the conversation with LGBTQIA+ young people.
Chris: This is important for many people in the LGBTQIA+ community as pronouns are significant in how we identify. A good way to start a conversation with any young person is to share your pronouns and ask them theirs, as we shared at the start of this video.
Jenny: You can ask, ‘do you use any other name or pronouns other than the information I already have?’ or, ‘how would you prefer me to address you?’ It shows respect and compassion if you are then consistent with what we tell you.
Twyla: A young person we spoke to said, ‘I consider myself transgender because I don’t see myself as the gender I was assigned at birth, but I am not necessarily planning on transitioning. I find myself regularly having to explain my identity to others. I don’t see myself as either a girl or a boy – I don’t want to reflect a binary gender. Non-binary is an identity that allows people to understand me; I find it inclusive and that it represents me well. If I am referred to with they/them pronouns, I feel like I’m being seen as my authentic self.’
Mali: Don’t worry if pronouns are not something you are used to considering. You may hear new pronouns as the language queer people use to describe themselves develops. It’s always better to ask and establish the facts accurately rather than making assumptions based on how someone looks to you.
Chris: Involving young people in the decisions about what is happening is really important. This agency helps to build trust if they have someone letting them know what they are feeling is real and to answer their questions.
Jenny: The importance of language is one way you can help a young person feel comfortable and listened to. Remember to validate the experiences of young people and not minimise our distress. We are likely to worry that we shouldn’t be accessing support; that there’s someone worse off than us or that we are seen as just kids acting out/making a scene to get help.
In this video, we discussed the importance of pronouns and language when engaging with young LGBTQIA+ people. Pronouns are significant to our identity, and sharing your pronouns while asking for ours can be an excellent way to start a conversation. For example, you can ask, “Do you use any other name or pronouns other than the information I already have?” or “How would you prefer me to address you?” By consistently using the name and pronouns we provide, you show respect and compassion.
Remember that some of us might identify as non-binary or transgender without intending to transition. For instance, one young person said, “If I am referred to with they/them pronouns, I feel like I’m being seen as my authentic self.” It’s essential to be open to learning about new pronouns and terms as language within the queer community evolves. Always ask rather than make assumptions based on appearances.
Involving us in decision-making and validating our experiences is crucial for building trust. It’s essential not to minimise our distress, as we might already worry about whether we should be accessing support or if you think that we’re just acting out. When introducing yourself, share your pronouns to show your commitment to inclusivity and encourage us to share ours.
If you accidentally use the wrong name or pronouns, apologise, correct yourself, and move on with the conversation. Over-apologizing or ignoring the mistake can make us uncomfortable and damage trust.
Here are some resources to help you better understand pronouns and language in the LGBTQIA+ community:
- NHS England’s article on the importance of pronouns: Wearing our pronouns with pride: small words, big impact
- MindOut’s LGBTQ(+) glossary: MindOut’s LGBTQ(+) glossary
- Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Rainbow Health Youth Supporters pack: Rainbow Health Youth Supporters pack
By being mindful of language and pronouns, you can help young LGBTQIA+ people feel comfortable, listened to, and supported.