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WAB Learns

IDEAS: Gender

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Equality, Access, Social Justice

Books on Gender

NonFiction

Using Gender Neutral Language in Your Classroom

What is gender neutral language?

A way of speaking that minimizes assumptions about gender, sexual orientation or the biological sex of the people being referred to. For example, the pronoun he may be replaced with he/she when the gender of someone is unknown.

Why use gender neutral language in your classroom?

  • Gender neutral language eliminates assumptions about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation based upon their appearance.
  • It avoids reinforcing gender binaries and it respects diverse identities.
  • The use of gender-specific language tends to be biased towards masculine words, contributing to gender power imbalances.
  • The words children hear affect their perceptions of the gender appropriateness of certain careers, interests, and activities.
  • For students who identify as trans or intersex, constant reminders about gender binaries can be stressful and reinforce traditional gender roles and expectations.

How can you teach in a gender inclusive manner?

  • Never divide the class by gender, or make statements just addressing one gender, such as “The boys in this class...”
  • Avoid using words like chairman, fireman, and stewardess when discussing careers or occupations. These are gender-specific; instead use the corresponding gender-neutral terms such as chairperson(or chair), firefighter, and flight attendant.
  • Instead of using the term you guys, use gender-neutral terms like everyone or people or Division 12 to refer to all students in your class.
  • Avoid assigning classroom or school tasks based on historical roles of gender. For example, asking boys only to moves chairs or desks.
  • Include as many resources as possible within your classroom and curriculum that depict women and men in non-traditional ways.
  • Ask students who identify as transgendered or intersexed which gender they would prefer to be identified with and address them as such.

Toxic Masculinity