Embracing gender-inclusive language in marketing & PR

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community herself, Liz has taken the time to write about Pride and the importance of gender inclusive language in marketing and PR. It is vital to learn about how we can be good allies, not just during Pride but every day.

Happy Pride Month! June serves as the perfect prompt to rethink our storytelling, strategy and use of language in regard to the LGBTQIA+ community and I’d like to take the time to ask you to think about shifting to more gender-inclusive language. 

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, I’d like to walk you through why it’s important to use language that’s inclusive for everyone, and how we can normalise different sexualities, and gender identities – in turn, making the world safer for marginalised people.

What do we mean by ‘gender-inclusive’ language?

This refers to language that does not assume anyone’s gender, or does not make reference to a particular sex or gender.

Using gender-neutral language might seem daunting at first, but it’s far easier than you might realise and I’m sure you mostly do it anyway!

  • When referring to a single person, if you’re ever unsure try and use “they” or “them” instead of “he” or “she”
  • Avoid gendered titles when referring to people. “Mr” and “Mrs” aren’t always needed if we already know that a person or couple are married, and titles like “Professor”, “Doctor” or “Sergeant” are already gender-inclusive
  • Use nouns that aren’t gendered. For example, if writing a story about fostering, try “foster parent” instead of “foster mum”, or “police officer” instead of “police man/woman”
  • Use gender-neutral terms wherever possible – use the word “humanity”, instead of “mankind” for example.

How can we describe gender?

First and foremost, I think it’s important to say that if you are writing about a specific person or group, and their gender identity is relevant to the story that you are trying to tell then you should ask them to describe it to you. It’s important to be respectful of people’s pronouns and despite what the media today might suggest, multiple gender identities are something as old as time – in fact, gender as a binary (man/woman) was a Western concept introduced throughout the world by colonisation from around the 15th century.

If you want to describe gender a bit more generally, there are a few terms that you should be aware of:

  • Transgender – The term ‘transgender’ refers to people whose gender identity does not match up with the sex that they were assigned at birth
  • Cisgender – This is a term that describes a person whose gender matches up with the sex that they were assigned when they were born
  • Cishet – This is an abbreviation of ‘cisgender heterosexual’. A term for someone who is both straight and cisgender
  • Non-binary – An umbrella term for gender identities that are not simply male or female. Some non-binary people identify as some form of both male and female and some as neither. Non-binary is often shortened to “NB”, “NBy” or “enby” but please note, “NB” can also mean “non-Black” (hence “NBy”), and some non-binary folk find the term “enby” infantilizing so it’s important to check with who you are writing about
  • Gender non-conforming or GNC – People who are gender non-conforming do not prescribe to the gender binary but this term is also often used to describe not conforming to traditional gender roles or stereotypes, including but not limited to fashion, gender identity and expression of one’s self

Benefits of using gender-inclusive language

If you are interested in PR or marketing, then you’re probably aware of just how important storytelling is and why it’s vital to create emotive or relatable stories. So why would you limit the number of people that can imagine themselves in that story?

When you use language that can refer to or describe more than one demographic, you are opening up a conversation that more people can be a part of – something that is so important when trying to get a brand in front of as many people as possible. Using neutral language also helps to create engaging content for everyone and when everyone feels included and respected, they are far more likely to trust you as a brand or an authority.

It’s important to remember that language is constantly evolving and you need to keep up-to-date with how it changes should you want to maintain a level of engagement, and most crucially, respect. 

Pride was a protest

To conclude, it feels important to remind people that Pride started as a protest. LGBTQIA+ people are discriminated against, maimed and killed all over the world to this day. Pride and allyship should be far more than rainbow logos and packaging (however cute they might be!).

It should be leading by example, treating people with respect, challenging discrimination and normalising diversity. Shifting your language and the way you talk about people is an easy way to start being an amazing ally.

Conteur employee stands in office

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