Author’s note: This article is adapted from my book, Network Beyond Bias.
What does “gender binary” mean?
The term “gender binary” refers to the either/or view that people, traits, or behaviors are innately male or innately female, with no gray area in between. Gender binary constraints limit everyone’s ability to be seen for who they are. This article explores five ways to make the world safe for individuality.
1. Introduce your pronouns
Introduce your pronouns when you introduce yourself. For example, when I meet someone new, I could say, “Hi, I’m Amy. My pronouns are she, her, and hers.”
Specifying your pronouns helps normalize differences and helps to challenge assumptions that people may have.
2. Put your pronouns on your name tag
At networking events, put your pronouns on your name tag. “My Name Is” stickers are boring anyway, and now you have a built-in conversation starter!
3. Update social network profiles
Update your social network profiles (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and your email signature to include your pronouns. For example, my email signature looks like this:
4. Ask people for their pronouns
Ask people for their pronouns, particularly if you have already shared your own. Don’t assume, based on someone’s appearance, that you know what pronouns they use. If the pronouns are unfamiliar to you, repeat them to confirm you heard correctly. Use the correct pronouns. If you slip up, simply apologize and try again. Most people will appreciate your effort, so long as it’s genuine.
5. Avoid stereotyping
Avoid stereotyping behaviors, inanimate objects, or emotions as “girly,” “manly,” “feminine,” or “masculine.” Avoid chastising children for showing an interest in something traditionally associated with a different gender. Don’t use “like a girl” as a criticism or “for a girl” as a compliment.