Content Warning: This page discusses mental health issues including depression, anxiety and suicide. It also includes discussion of oppression through sexism, racism and queerphobia. It contains material that may be harmful to some audiences. If you or someone you know needs help call Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
WINYA ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Winya Indigenous Furniture has always had a strong commitment to being leaders in workplace inclusion and diversity. From being the first ever Australian company to achieve the United Nations Award for Sustainable Development in the Economic Inclusion of Indigenous peoples to our Director of Marketing and communications achieving the Facility Manager’s Association People’s Choice Award for their work in workplace diversity and inclusion to our membership with ACON’s Welcome Here Project.
Winya Indigenous Furniture stands with and celebrates the LGBTIQA+ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Asexual) community, this is why you may see our staff using their pronouns in their email signatures and why we always try to use gender neutral language.
What are pronouns?
When interacting with someone, whether we realise it or not, we frequently use pronouns to refer to the person we are speaking to. When speaking of a single person in the third person, these pronouns have gender implied, such as “he” to refer to a man and “she” to refer to a woman. These associations are not always accurate.
Often, an assumption is made about a person based on how they look or what their name is. These assumptions are not always correct and can be potentially harmful. The use of someone’s correct personal pronouns are a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, in the same way that referring to someone with their correct name is respectful.
Why do we make these assumptions?
Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, boys and girls that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, boy or girl as well as relationships with one another. As a construct, gender varies from society to society and can change and evolve over time. Gender is hierarchical and produces inequalities that intersect with other social and economic inequalities. Gender-based discrimination intersects with other factors of discrimination including ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, age, geographic location, gender identity and sexual orientation, among others. This is referred to as intersectionality.
Gender interacts with but is different from sex which, refers to the different biological and physiological characteristics of females, males and intersex persons, such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. Gender and sex are related to but different from gender identity. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal and individual experience of gender which, may or may not correspond with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.
Harmful gender norms – especially rigid notions of masculinity and femininity can negatively impact the mental health of all people. Rigid gender norms negatively affect people with diverse gender identities who often face violence, stigma and discrimination as a result.
When a person’s pronouns don’t match their gender identity, it can be disruptive and even dangerous. The deliberate “misgendering” or “dead-naming” of transgender or gender-diverse people has been linked to mental health concerns, including suicide.
Why are pronouns important?
The correct use of personal pronouns effect everyone and are important for everyone as they normalise discussions of gender. Pronouns go beyond transgender and non-binary equality, showing and telling people your pronouns tells everyone you come across that you won’t assume their gender. This is an important move towards inclusivity, it shows that you care about individuals’ preferences, will respect them and is a simple solution to accidental misgendering. Everyone’s gender identity and gender expression are on a spectrum and understanding this is a vital part of being a trans and non-binary ally.
This may sound like an unnecessary level of ‘woke’ to bring to the office. But the use of and respect of pronouns on a deeper level can lead to powerful cultural shifts within organisations. It creates a safe space so everyone can bring their whole self to work, no longer needing to censor or hide parts of themselves. This can lead to greater productivity, creativity and connection between colleagues and your organisational purpose.
New research shows, that for transgender and non-binary people who live their lives with people who use their correct pronouns, it halves the chance that they’ll try to commit suicide. To provide some perspective on this, numerous studies have shown that a staggering half of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their life. The Trevor Project, the world’s largest prevention and crisis intervention organisation for young LGBTIQA+ people has found that the risk of suicide is dramatically reduced when their gender identity is respected. Transgender and non-binary youth who reported their pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.
What is misgendering? Why is this bad?
Misgendering is the unintentional or intentional use of a person’s incorrect pronouns. This can be embarrassing for you and hurtful to the person you are speaking to.
What can I do if I misgender someone?
If you misgender someone the best thing to do is apologise, correct yourself briefly and continue the conversation you were having. It is important not to make this mistake about yourself and avoid hurting the person you misgendered further.
If you accidentally find yourself misgendering someone, never make it about yourself. It’s ok to make mistakes, but make sure you immediately recognise and acknowledge that you used the wrong pronouns. Otherwise, other people involved in that conversation might think that they can also use the wrong pronouns for that person. If you see someone else misgender a person, don’t stand idly by. You don’t want everyone in the room to suddenly think they have permission to make the same mistake, so politely correct them and move on.
How can you ask about someone’s pronouns?
The best way to do this is to start the conversation yourself. Introduce yourself using your pronouns, include your pronouns on your email signature, include your pronouns on social media or simply ask:
What pronouns do you use?
When you are unsure of what pronouns someone uses the safest pronoun to use is “they” until you can find out how they identify.
It is also important to note that people are not required to disclose information about their identities with you when you ask. And even more importantly, they are not required to do the labour of education you on the shortcomings of your understanding of gender. Depending on the relationship you have with them, it can feel tokenising and exhausting to transgender people to constantly have to answer questions about their gender identities to uneducated people. Don’t ask them to speak on behalf of the entire community, because every voice in the transgender and non-binary communities represents an entirely different experience from the next. Everyone who has access ot the internet has access to an abundance of LGBTIQA_ resources, so educate yourself and look it up.
What pronouns do people use?
People can use a variety of pronouns, cisgender people which means people who identify with the gender they were assigned to at birth use pronouns like she/her/hers and he/him/his. Some trans and non-binary people may use gender neutral pronouns like they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs or ze/zir/zirs. Any of these pronouns can be used in a number of combinations for example: she/they, they/he, ze/her etc.
How to be a better ally:
- Listen and take it all in. Sometimes the best thing to do is to soak up what someone is saying
- Learn, take the stories you’ve heard, and self-educate. There is an abundance of resources on the internet.
- Make an effort to use someone’s correct pronouns
- Spread the word and amplify LGBTIQA+ voices
- Support people
- Challenge opinions and speak up when necessary, offer a solution for the future
- Protest, fight against unjust systems and support the LGBTIQA+ community
- Donate to causes fighting for the LGBTIQA+ community, below are a list of our favourites
Our favourite organisations to donate to:
Trans Lifeline the trans community experiences a disproportion level of violence and discrimination especially trans women of colour who have the highest number of attacks in the community. This resource allows transgender people to speak to other transgender people who can aid in crisis’s
The Trevor Project this is one of the few organisations that aids in real-time crisis intervention and is a lifeline for LGBTIQA+ youth under 25.
Minus 18 is an Australian specific organisation that leads change, builds social inclusion and advocates for young Australian LGBTIQA+ people.
Wear it Purple Foundation strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people
The Pride Foundation focuses on LGBTIQA+ community issues through fund raising, grant providing, collaboration and commissioning projects.
ACON is a New South Wales based foundation focusing on community health, inclusion and HIV responses for people of diverse sexualities and genders