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Using language or pronouns that do not accurately reflect someone’s gender identity can deeply hurt the individual, even if done unintentionally. Common social interactions are filled with opportunities for well-meaning folks to inadvertently misgender someone. By being aware of these everyday moments, we can catch ourselves before making assumptions and learn to use language thoughtfully and inclusively. Here are 17 common traps that can catch even the most conscientious person.
Referring to Relatives Without Asking
Describing someone’s siblings, parents, or extended family using gendered terms like brother, father, aunt, etc. without asking their actual relation first can inadvertently misgender.
Assuming Gender Roles
Making assumptions about gender roles, like expecting a man to pay the bill on a date or asking a woman if she needs help carrying something heavy, can lead to unintended misgendering.
Assuming Gender Based on Appearance
Making assumptions about someone’s gender based on their physical appearance or clothing can lead to misgendering, even if the intention was to be polite or complimentary.
Using Old Photographs as Reference
Referring to someone by their gender from an old photograph, especially if they have since come out as transgender or non-binary, can be a misstep.
Relying on Voice Pitch
Assuming gender based on the pitch or tone of someone’s voice can be misleading and result in misgendering.
Using Gendered Language in Greetings
Phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls” can unintentionally exclude or misgender individuals.
Making Assumptions Based on Names
Some names are commonly associated with a specific gender, but assuming gender based on a name can lead to mistakes.
Referring to Past Identities
Bringing up someone’s past identity or using their deadname (the name they were given at birth but no longer use) can be hurtful and invalidating.
Misunderstanding Gender-Neutral Pronouns
Mistaking or not being familiar with gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” can lead to unintentional misgendering.
Relying on Stereotypes
Basing assumptions on gender stereotypes, such as associating certain hobbies or jobs with a specific gender, can be misleading.
Making Assumptions in Group Settings
In group settings, like a workshop or class, assuming everyone’s gender instead of asking can lead to mistakes.
Not Correcting Others
Hearing someone else misgender a person and not correcting them, even if the intention is to avoid confrontation, can perpetuate the error.
Using Gendered Terms for Occupations
Terms like “fireman” or “saleswoman” can unintentionally misgender individuals in those professions.
Forgetting Previous Conversations
If someone has previously shared their pronouns or gender identity, forgetting and misgendering them later can feel dismissive.
Not Updating Records
Using outdated records or databases that haven’t been updated with someone’s correct name or gender can lead to unintentional misgendering.
Making Assumptions Based on Relationships
Assuming someone’s gender based on their relationship status, such as calling someone’s partner their “husband” or “wife” without asking, can be a misstep.
Over-Apologizing After a Mistake
While it’s important to apologize if you misgender someone, over-apologizing can make the individual feel uncomfortable or like they need to comfort you.