5.2 Pronouns and Gender Diversity

Respecting pronouns is vital when working with children, creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals regardless of gender identity. Understanding and using correct pronouns show that a child’s identity is valued and respected, and can support those who are exploring their gender identity. By participating in and using training on pronoun use, you are promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity that children can carry with them throughout their lives.

Why do we need to be aware of proper pronoun-use when working in schools?

  1. It shows respect: Using someone’s correct pronouns is a basic way of showing respect for their identity. It’s a way of acknowledging who they are and validating their experiences.
  2. It avoids misgendering: Misgendering is when someone is referred to with the wrong pronouns, which can be hurtful and invalidating. Knowing and using the correct pronouns helps to avoid this.
  3. It promotes inclusivity: By learning about pronouns and how to use them correctly, individuals can help create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
  4. It sets a positive example: When individuals take the initiative to learn about pronouns and use them correctly, it sets a positive example for others and encourages a culture of respect and inclusivity.

Gender Development

Gender identity development starts early and knowing preferred pronouns becomes increasingly important as children grow and explore their gender identity. By age 5 or 6, many children have a strong sense of their gender identity and may become more aware of gendered expectations and stereotypes. Creating a safe and inclusive environment that supports children’s gender identity and expression, including respecting their preferred pronouns, is crucial during puberty and adolescence.

Taylor’s Tips: Know Your Own Pronouns

We were recently at a school in Victoria leading our BusReady presentation when a child, about 8 years old, raised their hand and asked me what my pronouns were. I confidently replied, “She/Her,” and the child seemed pleased with my answer.

As our time together continued, they also asked the Transit Operator what his pronouns were. My advice is to be prepared and think ahead of time about what your pronouns are, so you have an appropriate response should a child ask you.

When a child sees that Transit Operators know this information, it can help build their confidence and keep them feeling safe and secure while taking transit. Since we both responded appropriately, the child felt comfortable enough to ask more questions about the material and better engage in what we were saying.

What if you make a mistake?

If the concept of gender identity and pronoun clarification is new to you, don’t worry. You may make a mistake and misgender a child.

If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun for a child, it’s important to apologize and correct yourself as soon as possible. This shows that you respect the child’s gender identity and that you are committed to using the correct pronouns in the future. Here are some steps you can take if you make a mistake:

  1. Acknowledge the mistake: Apologize for using the wrong pronoun and acknowledge that you made a mistake.
  2. Correct yourself: Use the correct pronoun immediately after acknowledging your mistake. This helps show the child that you understand their identity and are committed to using the correct pronoun going forward.
  3. Avoid making excuses: Don’t make excuses for the mistake or try to justify why you used the wrong pronoun. Instead, simply apologize and correct yourself.
  4. Learn from the mistake: Use the mistake as an opportunity to learn more about gender identity and pronoun use. Seek out resources and training, or talk to the BC Transit Youth Program team to help you better understand gender identity and how to create an inclusive environment.

Remember, it’s important to create a safe and inclusive environment for all children, regardless of their gender identity. Making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process, but what’s most important is that you show a willingness to learn and correct your mistakes.