Guide to understanding gender and pronouns

In our diverse and evolving world, language plays a crucial role in expressing and understanding the human experience. It has the power to shape our perceptions, challenge societal norms, and ignite social change.

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It is important to evolve with new terminology to demonstrate that we are committed to treating others with dignity and respect. In commemoration of International Non-Binary People’s Day, let’s brush up on our understanding and vocabulary in our social and professional spaces. 

By doing so, we become architects of empathy, compassion, and ultimately makers of an inclusive society. 


Sex & Gender

The terms “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably but this is incorrect.

Sex is a label – male, female, or intersex – assigned at birth based on physiological characteristics, including genitalia and chromosome composition. 

Gender is a broad spectrum and is about how a person identifies. A person may identify at any point within the spectrum or outside of it entirely.

"Two people can look similar and be completely different genders. Gender is not what people look like to other people; it is what we know ourselves to be. No one else should be able to tell you who you are; that's for you to decide."

Cis, Trans, & Non-Binary

There are many ways in which a person may define their own gender. People may identify with genders that are different from their assigned sex at birth, or with none at all.


Cisgender, or cis, describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.


Transgender, or trans, is a broad umbrella term. In general, it refers to anyone who isn’t cis and is inclusive of a range of identities such as trans woman and trans man.

Non-binary is a term used by people who do not identify with the confines of the gender binary. Instead, they understand their gender in a way that goes beyond identifying as either a man or woman.

"It is really important, in a world that is often 'either/or', to remember there can be both, neither and everything – that is, other than the 'binary' of male or female."


Pronouns are words used to refer to people without specifically naming them, for example she/her or he/him. Non-binary people may choose one of these pronouns, but they may prefer a gender-neutral pronoun such as they/them. If you are unsure about someone’s pronouns, ask them.  


Why does it matter?

Using the correct pronouns is a way to show someone you affirm and accept their identity.

By voluntarily sharing your own pronouns, you contribute to creating a safe and welcoming space for individuals of diverse gender identities. Let’s be the change we envision for the world!

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