It’s Not Just Pronouns: Supporting Your Colleagues Starts With Understanding

Person holds the non-binary flag

An amazing employee on our Latin American team, who wished to remain anonymous for this post, wrote this quick guide for Pride month in the hopes of spreading awareness. These are their words.

“Having the freedom to be who I am at work without fearing retaliation or discrimination feels the greatest.

I have known that I’m a person that’s not defined by a specific gender since I was in middle school. Growing up in a very conservative family and not being able to be me outside of the society’s box for a woman or being told I was just confused was both rough and frustrating.

It was not until I joined Echo that I was told that using the pronouns I have identified with almost my whole life was okay, accepted, and encouraged.

Being part of a company where you are not judged by your gender identity and are appreciated for being you is fantastic. I can’t be thankful enough.

I highly encourage everyone to respect each other, even if they don’t understand or share the same beliefs and preferences. We are all humans and deserve to be treated equally.”

Non-Binary – What it means and how to support non-binary people

Non-binary is a term that the LGBTIQ+ community has adopted to identify people that don’t quite identify as only female or male, man or woman. It is an inclusive term that is used by people for whom gender is different from the binary, gender changes over time or that simply don’t identify with any gender.

Terminology:

Although non-binary is not the only term used by people who don’t identify with a specific gender, it is the most widely spread and commonly used. A few other terms that each have their own meaning and definition are as follows:

  • Agender: Someone who doesn’t have a gender identity. This can be used for neutral gendered, genderless or non-binary people.
  • Bigender: Someone who identifies as both a man and a woman.
  • Queer and genderqueer: Someone who doesn’t stick to a traditional gender definition.
  • Gender fluid: Someone whose gender identity changes.
  • Third gender: Someone who has a gender identity beyond man or woman.

A few things to know:

  • Transgender, intersex, and non-binary are not the same thing. Most transgender and intersex people identify themselves as a man or a woman and although some non-binary people may relate to those definitions, it is not the norm.
  • Non-binary is not a new, trendy term; non-binary people have existed for a long time! As mentioned before, there are other terms that have been used to describe non-binary people.
  • Non-binary people are not confused or going through a phase.
  • People don’t have to be equally masculine or feminine to identify as non-binary. 
  • Not all non-binary people go by They/Them/Their pronouns.

How to be respectful of the Non-binary community:

  • In general, and not just for non-binary people, try not to assume someone’s gender. Keep it neutral until you have had the time to ask or they have told you about how they would like to be called. Communication is key!
  • You don’t necessarily need to understand what being non-binary means to respect them. Try to have an open-minded approach to this topic, and respect everyone else’s preferences.
  • Do not assume that a more masculine or feminine person can’t be non-binary. This is a very personal topic, and everyone can self-identify as they prefer.
  • Never ask a person to prove what they are.
  • Do not start or encourage jokes about non-binary people being “Confused”. We aren’t!

How to support Non-binary people:

  • Use the name a person asks you to use and encourage others to do the same thing. Please do not assume the way they would prefer to be referred to or their pronouns. Feel free to ask if you don’t know! Knowledge and willingness to learn are the keys to building relationships.
  • Help create a safe environment for non-binary people at work, school, and any other public spaces. They should be able to have their gender respected everywhere.
  • It is okay if you don’t fully understand what non-binary means, but please keep an open mind about it.
  • Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give!

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