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Inclusivity in Language - When There's More To It Than Just Words
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Inclusivity in Language - When There's More To It Than Just Words

“Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equitable opportunities.”  -Linguistic Society of America    

The world could use a little bit of extra effort when it comes to more gender-sensitive, transgender-friendly, and queer-inclusive language, especially with periods, wouldn’t you agree? But we can do better. We can move towards using language that aims to include everyone in conversation. This helps create a safe and open environment where others know they won’t be judged or looked down upon for being who they are or for characteristics they can’t control. Additionally, using inclusive language indicates that you would like that same courtesy from other people.The more we talk (or adjust the way we talk) about this, the better we all become as communicators. 

Products do not have a gender

Many period companies tend to advertise only towards cisgender women. For trans and GNC people, this can make having a period even more uncomfortable (as if the cramps weren’t enough!). It might be something other people don’t pay attention to, but it can really suck to buy something created solely for cisgender women. The menstrual cup itself is gender neutral - it's the marketing, communications and color options that make a difference to people who aren't into pink or butterflies. And while gender-sensitive period products can't do everything; they can help ease the burden of all the other factors that need to be tolerated by trans and GNC people.

Lunette promotes gender neutral language

Lunette has always been about inclusion, diversity and equality. Rather than trying to force everyone into a definitive label of man or woman, we embrace the spectrums of diversity that make humanity so amazing! Our team attended a course run by a Finnish trans organization Trasek, covering the different kinds of challenges that transgender people face in their daily lives. Our team learned how to support transgender people and to make sure we use appropriate and respectful language in all communications. We were gently reminded that all the challenges transgender people experience on a daily basis are things that cisgender people might not even think about as potential challenges. Learning to use correct language, especially in customer service and marketing, and understanding how much it really matters to trans people, was truly priceless. A course like this was paramount in order for us to be informed advocates for transgender lives. Lunette wants to create a safe space for everyone and we will continue to further our knowledge and education in the future. 

 And while everyone can make an effort to be more inclusive in communication – we still might make mistakes. But why not try? Nothing is lost in the process, but so much can be gained.   

How to get started:  

Listen to what people have to say:  Paying attention and showing respect in conversation is essential. It’s ok if you don’t understand the terminology as of yet – the most important thing is to listen. 

Come as you are: Everyone deserves to be accepted just the way they are, without questioning or demeaning their identity.  

Respect the right to self-determine gender identity: We each have the right to define who we are. This also applies to gender minorities. If you don’t know how to introduce or define a person - consider asking them. In fact, it is polite to ask a person how they want to be presented. This can be applied to all the people you encounter.  

Don’t assume: If you are unsure, don’t play the guessing game. We all make assumptions and categorizations, but we shouldn’t act upon them. Try not to say your assumptions out loud and if necessary, ask the person themselves. If you don't feel comfortable asking, introduce yourself with your pronouns: "Hi, I'm Suzan, and my pronouns are she/her." By sharing your own pronouns, you're allowing the other person to share theirs, but not forcing them to. Also consider this: Is information about a person’s gender really necessary in every situation? 

Inclusive language: Pay attention to gender-sensitive language. This is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, use the singular “they” as the pronoun and nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions. Avoid using pronouns he, she, him and her to refer to people of unknown or indeterminate gender. And remember: it's a good idea to use their name until you learn their pronouns.

Gender in different language 

Gender identity can't always be summed up with the words "he" or "she," but most languages don't have commonly used terms to describe everyone. In an attempt to solve this problem, some languages have come up with gender-neural terms, including pronouns and symbols to denote non-conformity to the gender binary. And while some language families have masculine and feminine genders for every single noun, others have no grammatical genders at all. Here's a few examples:

Hän is the gender-neutral Finnish personal pronoun that treats everyone equally. In the Finnish language, personal pronouns (words used as substitutes for a person’s name, such as he and she) do not specify the person's gender. One word – hän – refers to everyone. 

"Hen" is an alternative to the Swedish words "han" (he) and "hon" (she). It's inspired by the Finnish "hän," which means both "he" and "she". Germany has also come up with their own system - it is now common practice amongst activists and progressive/interested people to use an underscore or an asterisk to include all genders in a written phrase.

And while a lot of work still needs to be done, learning how different parts of the world are filling this gap can help us develop new ways to become more inclusive.

What next?

Language is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans. It binds and instructs us. When used well, it creates a common understanding. At Lunette, we talk about periods and people with periods, instead of genders. Periods are an integral part of using our product, so that is where our sole focus is.

All people who bleed deserve support, and to be included in the conversation. What has become evident, is that we must all continue to work to be better listeners and allies. It is an ongoing process that requires effort and time consistently. 

How could we continue our journey in this sphere together? 

1 comment on Inclusivity in Language - When There's More To It Than Just Words

  • Kishana Highgate
    Kishana HighgateDecember 02, 2020

    Thank you for this post. I am learning to become more and more open each day. As a cisgender female, there are probably situations that I’ve never even considered. Which gave me pause and a moment of reflection. Like you mentioned in the article, I’m not perfect but I am willing to listen and learn. It’s a fascinating new path for me!

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