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By: Carol Briggs, Clinical Intern

One of my roles as a counselor is to advocate for, and promote acceptance, inclusion, and equity. One of the ways to promote acceptance and inclusion is to help normalize feelings and situations that don’t get enough attention or are shamed because society has labeled them unworthy of acknowledgement and consideration. This includes identities tied to gender. Gender denotes masculine or feminine characteristics that have been constructed by society and include gender roles.

Gender identity is fluid and can be non-binary, meaning not exclusively male or female. It’s different than sex, which is a label assigned at birth depending on physical biology and chromosomes.  

A person can be born male and identify as female and vice versa. Additionally, a person can be born female and not identify as female or male. It’s also important to note that gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation.

Remember English class? Learning how to structure a sentence included learning how to use pronouns correctly. In case you forgot- pronouns are words we use when talking about ourselves (I), directly to someone (you), or when talking about someone or something else (he, she, they, it). Some pronouns include an implied gender. Assuming someone’s gender or refusing to consider and acknowledge someone’s gender identity leads to marginalization, discrimination, and sends a message of disrespect.

As a counselor, I value acceptance and recognizing people’s truths. To me, this means creating safe spaces for people to voice their truth. But it doesn’t end there. Counselors must take the step to push for inclusion. When it comes to promoting the respect and recognition of all gender identities, this means using my position to bring awareness to the importance of pronouns and making it a common practice to talk about a person’s preferred pronouns.

How can you support inclusion? Well, one simple thing is to start sharing your pronouns and make it a point to ask others about theirs. If we want to make the world a better, more compassionate place, we must respect each other enough to make the effort of understanding.

My name is Carol. My pronouns are she/her. What are your preferred pronouns?

If you’d like to learn more, check out this website: Why Pronouns Matter